CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Free Webinar on Pop Culture and RA Service

On Thursday, September 29th from 2-3 pm est I will be giving the Keynote Address for the Annual Meeting of the North Country [NY] Library System. But I will also be signed up for the NoveList, free, live webinar entitled, Unlocking Your Pop Culture to Improve Your Readers' Advisory.

Here's the program description: 
Librarians specialize in books, but some of the best readers' advisory inspiration can be found beyond the printed page. Movies, music, TV, games, podcasts -- pop culture permeates our lives. Start the right conversations and you can discover what your patrons love (and what they’d love to see in your library). Let NoveList Book Squad librarians Rebecca Honeycutt and Autumn Winters show you how fandom can drive deeper engagement at the library, supercharging your readers’ advisory, circulation, and programming.

You can click here to register FOR FREE whether you have NoveList at your library or not.

But Becky, you may be asking, why did you register if you know you cannot make it? Well the answer is easy, they will send me the video when it is ready this way. I both need and want to watch this, and I don't trust myself to remember to go back and view it.

As I talked about in this post last month, we need to be able to match from book to all other forms of leisure entertainment. In fact, in that post, I called on you to "Match Books to Everything and Everything to Books."

If you have been having trouble with that one, you should sign up for the webinar for help and inspiration. When I make those Calls to Action, by the way, I am also calling myself to get off my butt and do something. So join me by signing up. I won't be there live, but I promise I will watch.

To help get the conversation started, NoveList has also been posting free articles on the topic too, like this one on Appealing to Gamers.

Hope to "see" you there.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

RA for All Roadshow: Hinsdale [IL] Public Library’s Book Club Party!

Tonight I will be appearing at a library down the street from my house [literally, it’s two turns to get there] at the Hinsdale Public Library’s Book Club Party.  This is a SOLD OUT event!

The library is celebrating all of the great book groups that meet throughout their community and inviting them to come meet each other at the library. It’s a book people party and they have ask me to kick off the festivities by giving a short program.

I have done a version of this program for patrons a few times before, but never like this-- at a party! I am excited to get to go to a book club party. I will be talking for 1 hour and then will be hanging around to answer all of your questions. And, since you are all my neighbors, meet some like minded locals.

For both those of you attending, and those who cannot, here are slides for tonight’s event which include the link to the Hinsdale Public Library’s wonderful page just for area Book Clubs.

Please check that page out because one of the biggest trends in libraries regarding book clubs is not in hosting book clubs, but rather in servicing the book clubs that already meet in your community. Finding a way to be a part of their discussions, planning, process, etc... is where many libraries are focusing their attentions. There is no reason we have to force them to come into our buildings for their book clubs, especially if they are doing fine on their own. In fact, Hinsdale is one of the libraries leading the way in this trend. Back in July, they wrote this guest post for me about their on going local book group program-- Novel Tea. Check that out also.

Enough typing. Let’s go party....Book Club Style!

Click here for slides

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Long List with Becky’s Comments

The list came out today. I have attached it below but here is the official link.

I have a few things to say about this award in general, but first, please don’t forget my post about how to use award lists as a RA Tool.

That leads me to the first thing about why this list is important-- since it is picked by library people, they make even the announcement press release more useful to us than the average award list. For example the titles listed below are all linked to the Booklist review, so you can immediately see a library focused review of the book written for its best reader. That is important to mention too.  Just because a book is on an awards list doesn’t mean it is the right pick for every patron who walks through your door. But a quick click on the titles here on the list will lead you to a review that can help you and the patron decide which, if any, of these books are right for them.

Another way this list is more helpful than the non-library people ones is that right in the announcement are the links to the past years’ long lists. Backlist options right in front of you. No searching necessary. Use those lists at the bottom of this page... RIGHT NOW. Only library people are smart enough to include that in the press release.

This award is also important because it is basically the adult version of the Newbery Award. Over the years that has become THE MOST IMPORTANT award for childrens’ literature precisely because librarians pick it. People see librarians as book experts in this youth category now, hands down, and slowly but surely, we can have people see us this way for adult literature with the Carnegie Medal. Last year was a huge step forward because the Carnegie Medal picked The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen months before it also won the Pulitzer Prize. We adult library people know what we are talking about when it comes to book too, and the rest of the world is starting to notice.

In fact, let me take a moment here to make a general comment about awards lists for adult books-  all of them would be improved if librarians were required to be a part of the jury process.  Yes it is great for authors and critics to be involved, but only authors and critics is not enough.  We library workers understand the books, and more importantly, the readers, better. We need to be more involved. This award is a start, but only a start. We need to keep fighting to have our expertise taken more seriously.

Finally, the Carnegie Medals Longlist has always been diverse even before there was a cry to make sure diverse voices are considered. This year is no exception.

Enjoy. Once the list gets whittled down further, Booklist will prepare readalikes too. [Oh, I had forgotten that as a reason why a librarian chosen list is better.]

Click here for all the posts I have written on this award over the years.

Awards Longlist

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence: Longlist 2017

Six finalists, three fiction and three nonfiction will be announced on October 26, 2016.  The winners are announced at the RUSA Book and Media Awards Ceremony, Sunday, January 22, 2017, 5-7:00 p.m. EST, at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta.


Alameddine, Rabih. The Angel of History(Atlantic Monthly)
Beverly, Bill. Dodgers. (Crown)
Butler, Robert Olen. Perfume River. (Atlantic Monthly)
Chabon, Michael. Moonglow. (Harper)
Eggers, Dave. Heroes of the Frontier. (Knopf)
Enrigue, Álvaro. Sudden Death. (Riverhead)
Erdrich, Louise. LaRose. (Harper)
Gyasi, Yaa. Homegoing. (Knopf)
Haslett, Adam. Imagine Me Gone. (Little, Brown)
Ivey, Eowyn. To the Bright Edge of the World. (Little, Brown)
Lee, Krys. How I Became a North Korean. (Viking)
Mbue, Imbolo. Behold the Dreamers. (Random House)
Morgan, C. E. The Sport of Kings. (Farrar)
Murphy, Tim. Christodora. (Grove)
Patchett, Ann. Commonwealth. (Harper)
Prose, Francine. Mister Monkey. (Harper)
Smith, Dominic. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. (Farrar)
Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. (Penguin)
Strout, Elizabeth. My Name Is Lucy Barton. (Random House)
Terrell, Whitney. The Good Lieutenant. (Farrar)
Thien, Madeleine. Do Not Say We Have Nothing. (Norton)
Watson, Larry. As Good as Gone(Algonquin)
Whitehead, Colson. The Underground Railroad. (Doubleday)
Woodson, Jacqueline. Another Brooklyn. (Harper)


Dum, Christopher P. Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel. (Columbia University Press)
Jahren, Hope. Lab Girl. (Knopf)
Kanigel, Robert. Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs. (Knopf)
Kurlansky, Mark. Paper: Paging through History. (Norton)
McDonald-Gibson, Charlotte. Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis. (New Press)
Phillips, Patrick. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America. (Norton)
Sax, David. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter.(Perseus/Public Affairs)
Wideman, John Edgar. Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File. (Scribner)


The previous up-to 50 titles considered for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction:
2016 Longlist
2015 Longlist

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Support Groups For Book Discussion Leaders

This afternoon I finished my 3 city tour for RAILS where I traveled to different regions throughout Northern Illinois to not only train book discussion leaders but also to help facilitate and encourage them to join forces to continue to help each other.

Too often we all live in our own little library bubbles and forget to turn to our neighbors for help, to answer questions, or even to bounce ideas off of. But no one can understand your situation at your library better than a neighboring library.

I can swoop into your town, bringing my expertise and advice, but I am only there to start the conversation and kick start the training. I can never completely understand your specific library, its quirks, and your population, the way you can, but your colleagues in nearby places will definitely have a closer understanding than anyone else.

As part of my planned wrap up posts to these three specific events, I am going to compile my notes from the discussions we had on The Sympathizer at the three libraries, but before I get to WHAT we discussed, I wanted to take this moment to again highlight the real reason I went on this tour, to help all of you set up Book Discussion Leader Support Groups so you can be there for each other.

To that end, here is a refresher on WHY everyone who leads a book discussion should be a part of a leader support group and it comes from this article I wrote on the topic in the December 2015 issue of Booklist.

Today is about supporting you as the leader, but I will be back later this week with a recap on the discussions of the book. I know that is what you think you will find the most useful as you try to pick books and lead discussions, and in a way you are correct.  But in the long run, not finding support for yourself, the lone book discussion leader in the larger library organization [quite often this is the case], can do long term harm. You owe it to yourself to find local colleagues to connect with.  Let me help you start the process.

Monday, September 19, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- It's Horror Boot Camp Time

Not to freak you all out but Halloween is 6 weeks from TODAY!

Soon the hordes of horror hungry readers will be descending upon your buildings. Are you ready? My experience suggests the answer is probably, that you are not.

Not to worry because I am going to help you right now. Today's Call to Action is a reversal of roles. Instead of me calling you to do something to improve your service to leisure readers, I am calling myself into action for you.

Each year I run a 31 Days of Horror Blog-a-Thon for the entire month of October just to help you to serve your scariest readers better. That's right, you, the library worker are who I am writing these for. I give tips, provide lists, ask publishers and authors to share their thoughts, and even run a bunch of giveaways.

Over the next few weeks, you need to head over to the horror blog to look at the 31 Days of Horror from past years, and, well, just everything on that blog to prep for Halloween.  My goal is to make the Halloween season as easy as possible for you. There are literally thousands of reading suggestions for all types of readers from those who just want a small chill to those looking for outright gore fests, and everyone in between.

But I also understand that you are all very busy and might not have time to poke around the Horror Blog archives until you have to-- you know, when a patron is standing there asking a question and you have no idea. [click here, I have your back].

So today I am also offering up the notes from the Horror Boot Camp discussion I led for the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study.  Click here for the notes with slide access. It is everything you need to know if you only had 2 hours to learn it.  Please note however that the slides and notes follow a specific assignment so you might want to check that out first.

And of course, you can always buy my book. Last October the eBook was the #1 bestseller, so I know plenty of you bought a copy. Thanks. For those of you who did not, know that although the material is a few years old at this point, the horror blog is written as a free update to the book. So if you have the book, you get more out of the blog. Plus the book has hundreds of titles that are still widely available in public libraries. And you know how I feel about that backlist. [If you are a new reader, note, it is your BFF].

No more excuses! I don't care if you are scared of horror yourself. I have got this one for you. I have done my part: warned you of the impending increase in demand for horror [it could start any day at this point], given you links with quality and useful resources, and even provided the "Cliffs Notes" version of the genre.

Now get to work.  People are relying on you to help them feel the fear this haunting season!

For past Calls to Action, click here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

What I’m Reading: Reanimatrix

Reanimatrix by Pete Rawlik
Oct. 2016. 364p. Night Shade, paperback, $15.99  (9781597808804)
First published September 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Review: Robert Peaslee saw way more than he bargained for serving in Europe helping to oversee the peace after WWI where he met a group of doctors who were creating a new weapon, a serum that could be used to reanimated dead soldiers. After returning home to Arkham, MA in the late 1920s, Peaslee joins the police force working on the weird cases no one else has the experience to handle. However, one murder, that of local heiress Megan Halsey particularly haunts him. Not only is her body missing, but her papers seem to suggest a connection to the horrors he saw in Europe. Peaslee becomes obsessed, following Megan’s trail through the notorious towns of Arkham, Dunwich, Innsmouth and into the halls of Miskatonic University, uncovering more weird and terrifying secrets along the way. Told through the diaries and letters of Peaslee and Megan, this is a satisfying mystery told in a perfect 1920’s hardboiled narrative voice and style with just the right amount of Lovecraftian inspired chills to keep horror fans interested. Especially fun is how Rawlik seamlessly works famous doctors from horror fiction’s past [eg, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau, Dr. Jekyll] into the plot. Give this to fans of the current spate of Lovecraft inspired novels, especially those who enjoyed Lovecraft Country by Ruff, The Ballad of Black Tom by LaValle, and I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas, but it would not be a stretch to also suggest to fans of the Harry Dresden novels.

Further Comments: The mix of Lovecraft with the noir storytelling style works very well here. Using the hardboiled narration and pulp frame keeps the “wink-wink” Lovecraft stuff from being too cheesy. I also enjoyed how the story was told in an epistolary style. It worked well for the mood and made the story feel more historic. And the novel has a satisfying creepy/unsettling ending.

Warning though, there is some graphic sex here in a way that reminded me of Brian Keene’s Castaways [an all time favorite of mine]. It’s a bit gratuitous at first glance, but it works to build the backstory of Megan’s missing mother. It boarders on misogynistic at times; however, part of that is the Lovecraft inspiration because the man himself was quite a misogynist. Megan is a strong female character, and she is the clear heroine of this book, paried with Peaslee as the hero. If you understand the frame and see how Rawlik was playing off of the source material but subversively critiquing it at the same time, then it is fine.

Finally, I cannot stress enough how popular Lovecraft inspired tales are right now. It is a huge trend in more genres than just horror. It also feeding a larger “weird fiction”revival. So plenty of people will be hungry to read this novel.

Three Words The Describe This Book: pulp noir, Lovecraftian, atmospheric

Readalikes: There are plenty listed above.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Booklist Spotlight on Romance

My most favorite issue of Booklist for the year is now available.

Okay, I know I just confused at least half of my readers because many of you know that I publicly proclaim Romance as my least favorite genre to read for my own enjoyment. That is still true, but it is also 100% why the Spotlight on Romance issue is my favorite. I can use it to catch up on everything I need to know for the last year in the genre.

By the way, you should do this too; make the spotlight issue for your least favorite genre your most favorite issue of Booklist each year. Trust me, it is awesome. You can become extremely knowledgeable about the best books, trends, and issues in the genre without much effort.  [Psst...It is also a good way to identify a book or two to try if you are still trying to follow this Call to Action from last month.]

But back to Romance.  Here are some of the best things you can find because of this issue and they are all accessible with a click [with my extra comments in [ ]:

  • Top 10 Romance for 2016 [Only the best of my least favorite genre; someone else is telling me what I need to know about. I will put most of these on hold and then at least speed read them to get an overall snapshot of the genre at its current best. Should only take a few hours and I will be up to date.]
  • Top 10 Romance Debuts 2016 [I double heart this list; the best new authors means I am staying ahead of the game.]
  • John Charles' Core Collection: Romantic Suspense article. [Side note: he is one of the best romance reviewers and an all around awesome person. Romantic Suspense is still hot and it is read by men and women.]
  • The Top Romance on Audio 2016 [Joyce did a great job gathering a wide range of romance titles here; there is truly something for everyone...even me!]
  • And finally, at least one new post a day on The Booklist Reader the entire second half of this month. Just click on their tag- septemberromance- to pull them all up at anytime. 

And one final note, I know that I am paid to write reviews for Booklist, but I want to be clear, the reason I am willing to write for them at all is because I believe in the publication's mission. They are not trying to be the first place you go for reviews. Neither are they trying to review every book. Rather, they are trying to help you find the best books for your readers who come to the public library in America. The reviews are all written for the book's best reader. The lists and "Spotlights" are compiled to help you build stronger collections and help those genre readers. So yes, I am paid by Booklist, but I only work for them and promote them because I want to.

Now get out there and find some love-- in a book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dr. Carla Hayden Was Sworn In Today

I don’t want to post anything else on this historical day since it will live in the archives of the blog.  I want to commemorate it.

Not only is Dr. Hayden the first  woman and African American Librarian of Congress, she is the first actual librarian, and she is one who librarians all over the country already knew and respected. Really, a better choice could not have been made.

Last September I had this post when the job came open about why every American library worker needs to care about who the Librarian of Congress is, regardless of what your every day job entails. It is filled with links where you can discover more about what the LOC actually does. I think the media, is underestimating the fact that she is a Librarian. I think in the end, this will be more integral to the future direction of the institution and American libraries in general way more than her sex and race.

Although there is also this which I don’t want to underplay:

With the swearing in of Carla Hayden, the job has never been better positioned to fulfill its true duties. I spent my late morning watching the You Tube live feed to be a part of this historic day. She did not disappoint me at all with her amazing remarks.

If you missed it, you can watch the proceedings here [but fast forward to when it starts at the 1 hour mark.]

You can also view the official live Tweeting by clicking on #librarianofcongress. But most hardcore Library people used #nextloc. [Remember for my readers who let me know that they are not on Twitter, you can click those hashtags and read the archives without logging in. Contact me if you have problems.]

Also Dr. Hayden gave this interview to the USA Today which ran today. I love that this paper which can be read all over the country, made speaking with her a priority. Also here is a great Washington Post article about Dr, Hayden as a “Rock Star Librarian."

Let’s bask in this everyone. We all should feel extra proud of the professional path we have chosen on this special day. Today “America" is showing us the respect we deserve.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

RA for All Roadshow: Book Club Training for RAILS

This morning I am at the Galena Public Library for the first of 3 regional book discussion training and networking programs over the coming week.  For details on where I will be and when, click here.

Rather than post the slides and handouts 3 times over the next 7 days, I am hosting the documents for all 3 trainings here today.  If you have signed up with RAILS for this program, you will also have received the permalink to this post in your email. However, in order to make it as easy as possible for people to have access to the training materials AND to allow others to see what I have created [my goal is to spread the knowledge as far and wide as I can] I have everything here today for everyone and anyone. If you are one of the RAILS training attendees, use the "Recent Presentations" page or type "Book Club RAILS" into the search bar in the top left and you can always pull up these documents.

As a refresher, here is what we are doing in these 3 identical meetings:
In this workshop, Becky Spratford will offer a shortened version of her "Recharge Your Book Club" training and then Becky will lead a discussion of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Please arrange a copy of the book for your own use. There will also be time to address questions and concerns about your book clubs.
 Here is a list of the resources I have compiled for the meetings:

As a added bonus, once the series of meetings are complete, I will compile my notes from all three discussions, and post them here on the blog. Over the years, I have compiled dozens of book discussion reports, and they are among my most popular all time posts. People are finding old reports as they prepare for their own book discussions, and quite honestly, nothing makes me happier than to see those notes on previous discussions being used to help other groups have a great book club.

So sometime at the end of September, I will update you all on what we discussed, but right now, it is time to finish my drive to Galena and get this weeklong tour of Northern IL started. Thanks to RAILS for organizing this extended roadshow. I think we are going to help many more of our Illinois book clubs be successful by taking the training directly to these more far flung locations than we did by just having 1 meeting at HQ last year. I promise to not only train those of you who are there, but also help you to organize your own local networking, training, and support groups to be used from here on out.

Click here to learn more about RAILS

Monday, September 12, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action- Promote Your Staff!

Today I am handing over the call to action to Booklist's Corner Shelf newsletter which happens to feature a little bit of me at the end.

It is the previously promised recording, report, and all the slides from the ARRT/Booklist/NoveList Becoming the Face of RA event.

Click here for the entire Corner Shelf newsletter. And click here for the article with the video of the entire program plus slide access.

By why publish it as a Call to Action? Because it is a simple, easy, and effective way to promote your RA services and not many people do it. Again people, it is simple...easy...and effective. Why aren't you doing it?!?!?

Look, every library has items to check out. But what is unique to your library? It's your wonderful staff.  Merchandise them.  Show them off. They are your most valuable asset. If we get the staff more involved in suggesting and recommending books that they really like, we get them invested in being part of the library's overall service to readers.
In this program we had two fairly elaborate programs presented-- Downers Grove and Lawrence Public Library. Now while most libraries cannot afford to [in both time and money] work up as large a program as these two, the idea, the why they did this, is something any library can take part of and replicate. Again, watch the program to see what I mean.
And, to top it off, even if you cannot do any of it yourself, The Book Squad from NoveList also presented on how they can help you and your staff look like superstars. And at the very end I made a big announcement about a big LibraryAware and ARRT partnership. You will definitely be hearing more about that later this year and then on a regular basis for a long time to come.
So no excuse this week. Everyone get to work promoting how awesome you are-- because you are! I see it everywhere I go. Plus it will make your patrons happy.  Everybody wins.

For more Call to Action posts, click here.