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 including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Visits Allegheny County [PA] Library Association

Another day, another morning presentation, this time for Allegheny County Libraries, and it is the start of a three webinar series spread out over 6 months [webinar every other month]:
  • Allegheny County Library Association: Webinars-- all times 10-11am Eastern
    • RA for All, May 21, 2020: slide access here
    • #OwnVoices for All Readers, July 16, 2020
    • Recharge Your Book Club, September 17, 2020
We begin at the beginning, with my signature RA training. This one is interactive and comes with exercises to do during the presentation and many that can be done after.

This program follows my 10 Rules of RA Service which you can find here or linked in the slides.

Finally, a programming note, the blog is taking a break tomorrow. [I have to finish the Library Journal Horror Preview by the end of the day Friday], and with Monday being a holiday, I'll be back on Tuesday.

See some of you soon online soon and enjoy the long weekend.

Click here for slide access

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Returns to NE Ohio for Recharge Your Book Club

This morning I am back with my new friends in the Northeast Ohio Regional Library System to do some Book Club training.

My Recharge You Book Club presentation is one of my favorites. I am proud of the presentation because I have brought something new and useful to the conversation-- my Group and Leadership Norms-- and I just love book clubs, both as a leader and as a participant; in fact, I will be participating in a Zoom book discussion for book discussion leaders tomorrow.

Speaking of Zoom book clubs, I have completely updated this presentation and will be discussing the differences when you do an in person vs virtual book club. But, I will say, book discussion groups may be one of our first chances to bring back in person programming in the future, since a book club needs to be 20 people or less and you can wear a mask while having people spread across a larger room.

Also, the skills are not very different when you lead on Zoom or in person, so brushing up how to  lead the best book clubs is a great activity.

There are many new examples and links since I hadn't given this presentation for awhile and yet, since I never stopped being in and/or leading book clubs, I had many new examples to add.

As always, the slides are open to all here or below.

Click here for slide access

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Conversation Starter: Best of the Year So Far Picked by Readers

Believe it or not, we are closing in on the time of year when the "Best of the Year [So Far]" lists will begin to come out in droves.

While I enjoy seeing these lists both to get an idea on what to suggest to patrons AND for collection development purposes, they are all "expert" opinions. What we really need are more reader generated lists because we are helping readers, not experts, find books to read for their enjoyment [and I say this knowing full well that I am in that "expert" camp].

My main focus when I am training ALL library staff to provide Readers' Advisory service can be summarized in this statement [found here always on my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service page]:
Flip Your Focus and Think Like A Reader
This change of attitude begins with you, the individual library worker. You need to embrace yourself as a reader, rediscover the joy of what you love to read for yourself and why, and then share that with others, all while listening to them share their books. We learn so much from each other about why individual  readers enjoy what they do and why, so much more than from an expert telling his why the book is great.

When I write my professional reviews, I try to think about the book's best reader. Who would that individual reader be? And then I write the review to speak to that person. When I do my reviews on Goodreads of the books I have read for fun [not paid to read], I take a different tone. I am the book's best reader [or not] and I write about how the book worked for me, and if it didn't work great for me, then who it would work for better.

But this change of attitude should not stop with you, or even your co-workers. We need to look at all of our resources with a nod toward  the average reader. What do people who have "no skin in the game," people who are just reading for reading's sake think about the books that have been released this year so far?

That is an important list. One that speaks directly to readers, but also gives you insight into what other readers are thinking. It allows you to hear from them directly. There are many examples of  these reader driven best lists, but this week, Book Page released one of the first. Here is their Readers' Choice of the top 20 of the year so far. I found some surprises on the list, titles that were not on my radar, and others, that were barely there.

Now, let's circle back in this post to you and your fellow staff members as readers. This Book Page list is a great prompt for you to get your fellow staff members-- all of them, no matter where in the organizational structure they fall-- to start their own list, but don't make their dependent upon the book being out in 2020.

Get a staff conversation started about what is the best thing they have each read in 2020 so far is. Make sure you are clear that the copyright date on the item does not matter. For our purposes, as a library, with access to an extensive backlist, when the book was released does not matter, rather, just that it was read in the fist half of 2020. Use this as a chance to discuss positive things amongst the staff, things that are not tied to the stress of the pandemic. Compile a list of the titles mentioned, combine it with the Book Page list, and then make a display. As libraries begin to start opening up again, it can be online AND in the building.

Then as we start welcoming patrons back to our physical locations*, we can use this conversation starter as a great welcome message. We care what you have been reading. We have been reading too. In fact, here is what we have been reading and enjoying. Here is what readers across the country have enjoyed. What about you? Share with us. Let's make a local list of the best reads of the year so far.

Most of all, this supports my belief that we all should spend more time thinking like readers since we are helping readers and not book critics. When we remind the patrons that we are readers too, it makes them more comfortable to ask for help. Plus, it is fun; for everyone involved. And you know what, we could all use a little fun right now, especially fun that will also improve our service to patrons.

*I am not going to enter the conversation about how and when buildings open both because I think each individual community needs to decide for themselves [I am a trustee actively engaged I this conversation], and because many already are open in some way. If I ignore that, those staff get no help from me, and that is completely unfair to them.

Monday, May 18, 2020

What I'm Reading: The Hollow Ones

The current issue of Booklist has my review of  a new series that will be very popular.

The Hollow Ones.

del Toro, Guillermo (author), Chuck Hogan (author).
Aug. 2020. 336p. Grand Central, $28 (9781538761748); e-book, $14.99 (9781538761731)First published May 15, 2020 (Booklist).
Del Toro and Hogan team up again [The Strain] this time opening a brand new series, in an imaginatively built world that both pays direct homage to the progenitor of the occult detective story, Algernon Blackwood, and stands alone as an original, speculative thriller for today. FBI agent Hardwicke’s life and career are upended when her partner goes mad during a raid, forcing her to kill him, observing something shadowy leaving his body as he dies. The aftermath sends her on a quest for answers, leading her to an aging colleague, Agent Solomon, his civil rights era case, and the immortal detective, John Blackwood, who has been chasing the ancient evil at the center of it all for the last 500 years-- the Hollow Ones. With a shifting time frame that fills in the back stories for Blackwood, Solomon, and even the Hollow Ones themselves while also generating palpable suspense, this is a compellingly paced supernatural thriller, that refuses to sacrifice the details readers need in order to become invested in the story's well crafted dread and danger. Ultimately though it is Hardwicke and Blackwood, quite an odd couple partnership, that readers will be inevitably drawn to as they reconcile each other’s strengths and weaknesses, working together on an otherworldly assignment with very real world consequences. A great choice for those who enjoy popular speculative investigative series like those by the team of Lincioln and Child or Christopher Golden, but also for fans of occult thrillers with a nod to horror masters of the past like The Twisted Ones by Kingfisher.
Further Appeal: The keys here are the links to the origins of the occult detective story in general and the characters.  

Hardwicke is an interesting protagonist. She is complex and interesting enough that readers get caught up in her story immediately, but then you add in the intrigue and back story of the first black FBI agent in the south [Solomon] and an immortal detective, and, well many readers will get hooked.

This diverse cast, female detective, black FBI agent, immortal, serve the story telling well because they all live on the fringes on their worlds. It is not strange or odd that together they are able to operate outside normal rules and procedures because they are already discounted by the the establishment.

I really liked Blackwood as a character too. His backstory was fascinating and informed both the thriller storyline in the present and the one from the 1960s.

The press materials hint that this will be a series, and the ending suggest that; however, the ending is extremely satisfying and sweet on its own.

Three Words That Describe This Book: ancient evil, solid world building, occult detective

Readalikes: The titles and series above are a great starting point. There has been a huge increase in revisiting the origins of the occult detective in recent years and there are two anthologies I would suggest for people looking for more options.

Fighters of Fear edited by Mike Ashley which compiles old stories and Hardboiled Horror edited by Jonathan Maberry which is modern authors taking on the occult detective story. Both are excellent additions for public libraries and will lead patrons to many more reading options.

Friday, May 15, 2020

LibraryReads: June 2020

Editors Note:
 Before I begin with the regularly scheduled message I repost before each and every LibraryReads monthly this, I need to take a moment to recognize this particular. As you will see below, the June 2020 LibraryReads list not only has 2 straight up horror novels on the list BUT, the Number #1, top vote getter is a horror novel. You can call it Gothic, but I have read this book, and I can tell you, this is not Rebecca, it is straight up horror. 
I would  like  to  remind all of my readers that I am not allowed  to vote because I do not currently work in a library. I had absolutely nothing to do with this. This is all your doing, and I am so proud. 
I  have spent a huge portion of my career promoting horror to library workers so that they will in turn remember to suggest it to patrons. I never thought in my wildest dreams that you, as a group, would  begin to appreciate it as readers. 
As I really settle in on completing the third edition of my book, this is inspiring; it is going me the energy I need to power through for all of you. As I told LibraryReads Executive Director, Rebecca Vnuk, this morning, "I think I may faint." 
Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

It's Library Reads day and that means four things here on RA for All

  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips through this archive OR the sortable master list allowing you to mix and match however you want.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
  4. Every upcoming book now has at least 1 readalike that is available to hand out RIGHT NOW. Book talk the upcoming book, place a hold for it, and then hand out that readalike title for while they wait. If they need more titles before their hold comes in, use the readalike title to identify more readalike titles. And then keep repeating. Seriously, it is that easy to have happy, satisfied readers.
The LibraryReads Board has also started another great book discovery and suggestion tool for you, a monthly What We're Reading column. This means there are even more library worker approved titles, new and old, for you to choose from. 

So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

Please remember to click here for everything you need to know about how to participate. Click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month.

Now let's get to that list....

Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
(Del Rey)
“A perfect gothic mystery with an updated sensibility that will appeal to the modern reader. Noemí­ is a Mexico City socialite in the 1950s. When her father receives a disturbing letter from his niece, he sends Noemí­ to check on her cousin at the remote house where she is living--a grotesque and rotting English-style mansion, built on dirt imported from England by the colonialist eugenicist family she has married into. Lush descriptions and the creepy atmosphere make this a good choice for readers who liked The Witch Elm, The Little Stranger, or The Haunting of Hill House.”
Lorena Neal, Evanston Public Library, Evanston, IL
NoveList read-alike: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero    

And now, the rest of the list....

The Boyfriend Project
by Farrah Rochon

“In this contemporary romance, three women who were two-timed by the same man become friends. The unique, funny premise cleverly serves as a catalyst for why the women are trying to make changes in their lives. The romance is lovely and finds ways in which the couple struggles to be together. Give this to fans of Mia Sosa and Alisha Rai.”

—Ann Carpenter, Brooks Free Library, Harwich, MA 
NoveList read-alike: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre 
by Max Brooks
(Del Rey)

“Nobody imagines the end of the world quite like Brooks! Here he takes a group of privileged idealists, sets them in a beautiful utopia where they can escape the headaches of the city but suffer none of the inconveniences, and then brutally removes all the comforts they expect to be delivered. Throw in some hungry Sasquatch and things get really interesting. For fans of Blake Crouch and Jeff VanderMeer.”

—Amy Hall, Jefferson County Public Library, Wheat Ridge, CO 
NoveList read-alike: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

The Empire of Gold
A Novel
by S.A. Chakraborty
(Harper Voyager)

"This is a story about colonialism and cycles of trauma, giving an in depth look at the politics and psychology of a land warred over by ethnic factions for centuries. Highly recommended to anyone looking for an imaginative fantasy with complex characters, well developed relationships, and insightful social commentary. For readers who enjoy N.K. Jemisin and Tasha Suri.”

—Lauren Mitchell, Neenah Public Library, Neenah, WI NoveList read-alike: Books of Ambha by Tasha Suri

The Girl from Widow Hills
A Novel
by Megan Miranda (Simon & Schuster)

“Miranda returns with another engrossing psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The story is primarily told from Olivia's unreliable perspective. News reports, book excerpts, and other media are also used to fill out the story, which keeps the plot moving. For fans of Conviction (Mina) and The Other Mrs. (Kubica).”

—Megan Coleman, Cecil County Public Library, Elkton, MD 
NoveList read-alike: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

The Guest List
A Novel
by Lucy Foley

(William Morrow)
"A wedding celebration on a remote island off the coast of Ireland turns eerie and nightmarish in this gothic atmospheric mystery. A good choice for fans of Ruth Ware."

—Bill Anderson, Scott CountyPublic Library, Scottsburg, IN 
NoveList read-alike: Go To My Grave by Catriona McPherson

The Last Flight
A Novel
by Julie Clark

(Sourcebooks Landmark)

“Claire and Eva both have reasons for wanting to disappear, so when they happen upon each other at the airport, they decide to take the other person's flight. However, when one of the planes crashes, the danger they thought they were leaving isn't far behind. For readers who enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine and The Passenger by Lisa Lutz.”

—Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL 
NoveList read-alike: Layover by David Bell

The Lies That Bind
A Novel
by Emily Giffin
(Ballantine Books)

"Cecily is fresh off a break up and meets a “too good to be true” stranger in a local dive bar. For fans of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes."

—Stephanie Hall, Topeka Public Library, Topeka, KS 
NoveList read-alike: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Take a Hint, Dani Brown
A Novel
by Talia HIbbert (Avon)

"Dani and Zaf have been low-key flirting forever when a gallant moment is turned into a viral video and the pressure is on for these two to become a couple. This is a fabulously fun and meta take on a classic romance trope, the fake relationship. For fans of The Wedding Date and The Kiss Quotient."

—Jessica Trotter, Capital Area District Libraries, Lansing, MI 
NoveList read-alike: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

The Vanishing Half
A Novel
by Brit Bennett (Riverhead Books)

"Centering on two twin light-skinned black girls who grew up in a strange town in the Jim Crow south, this book explores racism, colorism, sexism, and familial relationships through the interweaving storylines of vivid and complicated characters. For fans of Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson."

—Pamela Gardner, Medfield Public Library, Medfield, MA
NoveList read-alike: A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Alpha Night
by Nalini Singh (Berkley)

"This continuation of the Psy-Changeling series features the shapeshifting wolves of Moscow and their pack alpha, Selenka, but it also brings back many characters from previous books. Another enjoyable, fast-paced paranormal romance from Singh."

—Cathy Shields, East Lyme Public Library, Niantic, CT
Read-alike: The Mane Event by Shelly Laurenston 
Read-alike: Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison 
Read-alike: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews 
Read-alike: The Last Wolf by Maria Vale

Dance Away with Me
A Novel
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (William Morrow)

"Phillips’ slow-burn romance centers around a grieving young widow who is drawn into the life of a frustrated artist. The story’s darker turns are lightened by humor drawn from the small-town Tennessee setting. Highly recommended.”

—Rose Miller, Orange Public Library, Orange, CA
Read-alike: Blue Hollow Falls by Donna Kauffman 
Read-alike: Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne 
Read-alike: Sanctuary Cove by Rochelle Alers

The Dilemma
by B.A. Paris (St. Martin's Press)

"If you knew something that was certain to change everything, would you keep it a secret to hold on to tranquility for one more day? Paris' driving narrative, alternating between the perspectives of a husband and wife, guarantees your book group will be divided over this very question."

—Lorri Steinbacher, Ridgewood Public Library, Ridgewood, NJ
Read-alike: Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
Read-alike: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing 
Read-alike: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Home Before Dark
A Novel by Riley Sager (Dutton)

"Maggie’s father wrote a famous book about the family’s paranormal experiences when she was a child living at Baneberry Hall. Twenty-six years later she returns to the house to finally face what happened long ago. This suspenseful and compelling book keeps you guessing to the very end."

—Ashley Borer, Normal Memorial Library, Fayette, OH
Read-alike: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell 
Read-alike: The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott 
Read-alike: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

Party of Two
by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley)

"In the fifth book of the Wedding Date series, sparks fly between a smart, independent lawyer and a charming, impulsive senator. Guillory thoughtfully incorporates serious issues into her books while keeping the tone light and uplifting. Sweet, sexy, and a lot of fun."

—Jayme Hughes-Gartin, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Cincinnati, OH
Read-alike: A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole 
Read-alike: Rumor Has It by Cheris F. Hodges
 Read-alike: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang 
Read-alike: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stock Your RA Pantry: Have an Honest Conversation Around the Question, "Why Read Diversely?"

I am back with Stock Your RA Pantry, a series of posts that address the things you can do from home to enhance your RA Services and Resources both now and going forward. And, these are all things any library worker can do, no matter what their official job at the library happens to be.

In my popular "#OwnVoices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values Into RA Service" program, I have a link to the Book Riot 5 part series entitled, "Why Read Diversely?" However, I don't usually  have more time during these programs than to say, "Go read that later." It is the nature of my job, that I am hired to spend a mere 60 minutes on a complex topic, so I do the best I can and provide more links so those who want to take a deeper dive.

And yet, now we have a little more training time, which is why I started this "Stock Your RA Pantry" series in the first place. Today, I want to explain a little more about this 5 part series and how you can use it to have a conversation among your staff because this series not only features POC book professionals discussing why reading diversely is important, but they also provide discussion questions, honestly tackling some of the most uncomfortable questions at the heart of this conversation, and they do it in a respectful and direct manner.

Here is a list of just some of the questions they address in the series:
  • Where can I go to find authors from diverse backgrounds?
  • Isn’t this publishing’s problem?
  • Who counts as a “POC”? For example, does someone from Spain count? Or someone who is Jewish? And what’s up with the term “POC” anyway?
  • What about other kinds of diversity? Isn’t reading diversely important in terms of politics, religion, and where an author is from, as well as race?
  • What about books written by white people that are about POC? Do those “count”? And as an author, what if I’m uncomfortable writing a character who is a POC?
  • How can I, as a non-POC person, relate to a story by/about a POC?
  • Why does everything have to be political?
  • So what’s a “good” percentage to aim for? And isn’t that just filling a quota?
  • Am I a racist if I just don’t care?
  • Why are diverse books specifically important in children’s literature?
  • Isn’t it enough to have at least one PoC character?
  • Why is it important to have PoC characters in stories that are about more than just their racial background?
As a team, either in departments or as a whole library [or even better, creating teams across departments and job levels to break into smaller group discussions so you can have a cross section of staff working on these issues together], you can read each part, the questions they pose, and the answers they provide, and then turn each part of the series into  a discussion where staff can share their thoughts, concerns, solutions, etc.... about what they read. Even the most "white" staff will have heard the point of view of people of color in this conversation simply by reading the articles.

The key is that this series is the jumping off point you need to have these conversations at your library. You don't need to hire a fancy EDI consultant to get the discussion going. Now, as you work  through an EDI focused program at your library, there will be a time when you might need professional help, but you do not need that to get the conversation started.

Unfortunately, I am seeing some libraries push back their equity, diversity, and inclusion training and the goals they have set because of the pandemic. However, I would argue that now it is even more imperative that we push EDI to the forefront. You could use these articles and questions to have an online discussion board conversation or to make them a topic at department meetings. These are conversations that every single staff member can and should participate in. This is training that is inexpensive and useful. This is an activity that should be happening everywhere.

And let's remember the importance of  including everyone on staff, not only because every level of staff, from the janitor to the director, make up your organization, but also because the hard truth is that support staff at a library are made up of more diverse people than the 88% white ladies that make up professional librarians [myself included]. To not include all staff is to ignore the entire point of having a discussion centered around equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Click here to access part 1 and then follow the links to read the entire series. In fact, please return to part 1 after you finish each part because only Part 1 has the direct links to all 5 parts [at the end of the post]

For more posts in the "Stock Your RA Pantry" series, click here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What I'm Reading: First Goodreads Review Update 2020 [Print Edition]

Today I have another installment of my catch up reviews. This post should serves as a reminder that I do periodic updates of all of the books I read for "fun" on Goodreads and then compile them here so that the titles are searchable on the blog too. 

See below for the authors and titles as well as my three words. Use the links [click on titles] to read the full review on Goodreads.

I am still preparing the reviews of the audio books I have read this year already, but I figured I would get these out in the meantime.

The only reason I separate my reviews by format here on the blog is because some people want to know which format I read. In my audio reviews I do comment on the narration, but sometimes I also write about why I chose the book in that format. The format is easier to see on Goodreads since I make sure to choose the appropriate "edition."

  • The Line Tender by Kate Allen (coping with death, thoughtful, witty)
  • Now You're One of Us by Asa Nonami (intense, menacing, consumes you physically)
  • The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus (conversational tone, character centered, thought provoking)
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (book about books, lush, great world building)
  • Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (lyrical, folk horror, immersive)

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

RA for All Roadshow Visits the Library Journal Equity Diversity and Inclusion Training [and more if you read on]

Click here for details
Today is the final day of the latest Library Journal Professional Development course on Evaluating, Auditing, and Diversifying Your Collections. Details.

They offer a version of these classes frequently with different speakers and exercises. This is my third [or fourth?] time being asked to present as part of this larger course. While what I present has changed over time, the main point of my talk is always the same. And yet, when presented in context with different speakers each time, I feel like people get something new from me each time.

Today is an excellent case in point. I am presenting back-to-back with my good friend and frequent collaborator, Robin Bradford, and it will be a tag-team effort. Robin will discuss EDI issues in regards to Collection Development and then I will move into RA Service.

Now some of you may be reading this post and thinking, thanks for nothing Becky. Why are you telling us about an awesome class that we cannot possibly join? Don't worry, I am not that mean.

This class today is a preview of the program Robin and I will be presenting at ALA Virtual on June 25th at 11:15 central and right now if you go to this page you can use the coupon code found there [and in the screen shot below] to register for the entire conference for only $60! That means you can see a version of today's talk and participle in a live Q and A with us.

But that is in late June. One day at a time. Today's live slide access is here.

Click here to register

Click here for slide access

Monday, May 11, 2020

Resource Alert: PW's Annual Summer Reads [With Easy Backlist Access]

It's here! One of my favorite RA resources is back: The Publishers Weekly Summer Reads database. From the main page:
We run this feature every year, and it's usually a lot of fun to put together. We start working on it in March before spring actually springs, and it's a nice exercise to imagine what you'd want to take along to read on vacation or a trip to the beach. Things, obviously, are a bit different this year, and with the world in the grip of a pandemic and with uncertainty in every direction, a little escapism isn't necessarily the worst thing. So we've put together some recommendations for books to get you through this strange season. And if you do end up throwing one in your bag and heading for the beach, who knows, maybe we'll see you there. But we'll stay six feet away. Here's hoping you have a safe and sane summer.
This database is one of your best YEAR ROUND Resources hands down. Why? Well I am going to let a picture do a lot of the explaining.

Click here to access the entire database
That is a screen shot of the SF/F/H Horror tab featuring what is currently my #1 Horror book for 2020, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. [My LJ STAR review is here.]

The Summer Reads database is more than the sum of its parts, those parts being the wide swath of categories offered. As you can see, they also make backlist access of every Summer Reads and year end Best Books list going back to 2012 easily accessible from the top of the page.

Nowhere will you find a resource that puts this many "sure bet" options in front of you so easily. There are literally hundreds of titles here, at your fingertips, both old and new, that you can confidently suggest to readers immediately. And, since every title is annotated, you also have a book talk [or annotation] for each title right there. You don't have to have read the book to suggest it. [I talked about this on Thursday last week in details-- Use the Words of Others.]

I could keep gushing about how much I love this resource but I would rather you played around with it yourself.

Click through, check out the upcoming titles, but also look back at older titles, read the annotations, check genres you love and those you don't normally read, especially those you don't normally read because you will learn much about the current state of that genre [trends, popular authors] this year and going back a few years. You can both get access to some great sure bet suggestions AND brush up on your genre knowledge all in one place.

Spend some time really getting to know this resource. And then use it-- all of it including past years and both summer and year end lists-- to make your own lists for your readers. Make displays [digital displays too], make suggesting reading lists by genre, by year, by whatever you want. Just embrace the wealth of information available to you with one click and help readers in ways they would not think to help themselves.

Proof reading this post before publishing it, I realize how many times I am repeating myself about using the entirety of the information that PW is making available here, but I also know from years of suggesting this resource to people that you don't all listen to me. And so, I will keep beating this drum of using best lists all year long and especially checking the backlist until I run out of breath [or strength to type].

Finally, if you only read one title from the entire 2020 list, in my opinion it should be The Only Good Indians. And to support this claim, my weekly #HorrorForLibraries Giveaway on Friday will feature that title. Don't forget to check here so you can signup now to be in the running this week and for weeks to come.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Should You Give Your Book Club Questions Beforehand?

A few months ago, I received a question from a reader asking me if I recommend providing book groups the questions before the discussion meeting [like a week or so before]. And my answer was complicated enough that I wanted to publish it here on the blog too.

If forced to answer only yes or no, with no qualification, I would go with, NO.

Why "No?"

Well, the simplest answer is the reason many group members ask for the questions ahead of time is because they are really just seeking more information to help them prep for the discussion. They don't actually want to prepare answers to exactly what you are going to ask, but they also don't want to be caught off guard. They don't know how to ask for the in between.

Now some may actually want the questions so they can prepare long responses ahead of time. This is the first reason why I encourage you NOT to do that. You absolutely do not want people to work on their answers because it will remove the spontaneity of the discussion. People will be less willing to let the discussion go from topic to topic naturally and instead, will be tied to the questions you gave them and the order they appeared in, even if only in the back of their minds. The key to better discussions is in how you, as the leader, manage the flow.

Second, those who get the questions and prepare answers will dominate the discussion and there will be less room for those who did not prepare to share their thoughts.

Third, often the best moments in a discussion are when someone thinks of an entirely new idea based off of what someone else said. And, with 20+ years of leading book discussions under my belt, I can tell you that those are often comments that are not tied to any prepared question.

Now, I do still need to address the issue I brought up at the start of this post, that often people ask for the questions ahead of time because they are craving a little more context about the book and think that questions are the best way to get there.

Of course your most curious book club members know to Google the author or title, and in fact, they do already and bring things they learned to the group. But, on the flip side, experience shows that some of those participants find untrustworthy or completely irrelevant information to share and/or they hijack the discussion with their "research," good or bad, and then the group gets off topic making it harder for you the steer the ship.

So, I suggested to this library worker back when she sent me the question, and now to all of you, that when you introduce the next book to your group that you also include a few prescreened interviews or tangental information about the book [reviews, articles, info about the frame, etc...] for members who are interested.

I present for example, the ARRT Book Club Study page for the Upcoming Discussion. If you are looking at it in this post's present [May 2020] you will see this for our upcoming discussion of Song of Achilles by Miller:
Links to Peruse Prior to the Discussion: 
To read the Illiad’s version of the climactic actions during the war, start at the Illiad, book 16 (from Samuel Butler’s translation): http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.16.xvi.html 
An introduction from the author: https://youtu.be/lTl8ZUTKOdo 
A guide to the characters, reader’s guide, and information about the historic Troy from the author: http://madelinemiller.com/find-out-more/ 
About the archaeological site believed to be Troy: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/aug/09/lost-cities-2-search-real-troy-hisarlik-turkey-mythology-homer-iliad
But even if you encounter this post in the future, the link will still bring you to whatever the next book we are discussion is and there will be information under "Links to Peruse Prior to the Discussion" for that title. You should consider emailing these out to members and posting it on your library homepage to promote the book discussion. Feel free to use the ARRT Book Club Study Upcoming Discussion page as a template too.

The entire reason the Book Club Study program and the materials we post on the web exist is to help you make your job as a book discussion leader easier. As you will see, it changes with each title, both in obvious ways as the books change, but also, since we change who is leading the discussion each quarter, the type of information each leader chooses to share is different. Again this is done on purpose so that a variety of styles are modeled.

Returning to the start of this post, the caveat to my "No" about providing questions ahead of time is to instead, try to provide something for people to look at if they want. Give them information that will enhance, not distract from a dynamic discussion. Save the questions themselves for the discussion.

One final editors note: I pulled this post out of my draft pile. I had been meaning to get to it, but you know, other things became more pressing. However, now book discussions are a hot topic once again [YAY!]. I have 3 book club trainings in the coming weeks and will be hosting a book discussion for book discussion leaders next month over Zoom.

Many library workers are concerned that Zoom book clubs will be very different from in person, but I want to tell you that of all of the meetings and programs we have moved online, book clubs are the least effected-- if you use the same rules and procedures you would institute in person. For example, the biggest no-no for a zoom book discussions is letting too many people in at a time. You still need to keep it to 25 max, although the sweet spot is 12-17.

I will have a lot more to say about this in the coming weeks as I work with libraries on book discussion training and participate in Zoom book clubs as both an attendee and a leader. But in the meantime, if you have a specific question, please contact me and I can get back to you. And who knows, maybe your question will become a post one day too.