ARRT GENRE STUDY WEBSITE

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.

RA FOR ALL...THE ROAD SHOW!

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, October 29, 2010

RA for All: Halloween Edition

If you are still looking for a few last minute Halloween reads or ideas, remember, I have you covered on the sister site, RA for All: Horror.

In the last week I have had posts on the new AMC Walking Dead series to debut on Halloween night (after the kiddies go to bed), some suggestions of zombie book discussion books, new Nonfiction horror related titles, an essay about big vs. little monsters, and a link to some awesome ghost stories.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Talking About Horror Books on the Radio

Today I was the guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn Show.  It was all about horror books. I spoke for an hour about horror fiction, and took calls about people's favorite horror books.  If you are looking for something scary to read this weekend, check it out.

Click here to download the program.

Click here to access the Kathleen Show Facebook Page which will include a list of all of the books mentioned.

And don't forget to check my horror blog, RA for All: Horror, including my suggestions for the best of 2010.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emerging Genre: The Neuronovel?

My RSS feed to the Readers Advisor Online blog is always pointing me toward new issues and interesting RA related links.  In this case Cindy Orr posted this article by Marco Roth about the Neuronovel.  Here's the first paragraph:
The last dozen years or so have seen the emergence of a new strain within the Anglo-American novel. What has been variously referred to as the novel of consciousness or the psychological or confessional novel—the novel, at any rate, about the workings of a mind—has transformed itself into the neurological novel, wherein the mind becomes the brain. Since 1997, readers have encountered, in rough chronological order, Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love (de Clérambault’s syndrome, complete with an appended case history by a fictional “presiding psychiatrist” and a useful bibliography), Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette’s syndrome), Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Richard Powers’s The Echomaker (facial agnosia, Capgras syndrome), McEwan again with Saturday (Huntington’s disease, as diagnosed by the neurosurgeon protagonist), Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras syndrome again) by a medical school graduate, Rivka Galchen, and John Wray’s Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia). And these are just a selection of recently published titles in “literary fiction.” There are also many recent genre novels, mostly thrillers, of amnesia, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. As young writers in Balzac walk around Paris pitching historical novels with titles like The Archer of Charles IX, in imitation of Walter Scott, today an aspiring novelist might seek his subject matter in a neglected corner or along some new frontier of neurology. (full article link)
Whether or not this is an emerging genre or just a trend, from the RA standpoint, this article has some practical applications right now. I  have encountered many patrons who have enjoyed one of these titles and come to me for something similar. Honestly, I have never thought to think of the appeal of the neurological aspects of the novel. Sure I have asked people who liked Motherless Brooklyn if they liked that the narrator had Tourette's, but I have never thought to expand that appeal to any "novel of consciousness." If that is what the reader enjoyed, this article contains a treasure trove of read alike options.

And it isn't as if I am unfamiliar with these titles. I have read many of them and know quite a bit about the rest. These are popular titles.  It is just that while we are in the trenches helping readers, we sometimes loose track of the larger picture. That is why no matter how good a Readers' Advisor you are, we all need to read widely about our field. Just reading the books is not enough. So thanks to Marco Roth for his article and to Cindy Orr, for the chance to think outside the box.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Not Too Late...

There is still room to attend my Recharge Your Book Club Program tonight at 7pm at the La Grange Public Library. I have also posted the handouts here for anyone to use.

Feel free to come up and introduce yourself after the program.

Just watch out for roaming zombies on your way there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Cool Librarians

All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential KnowledgeA few days ago I was excited about all of the press librarians have been getting lately, but this weekend, that coverage was taken up a notch.

In celebration of the release of her book, All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential Knowledge, Kee Malesky, the head librarian at NPR, who normally is researching the interview subjects, became the interviewee herself.  Click here to either listen to the story or read a transcript of her conversation with Scott Simon.

FYI, this book, would make a great holiday gift for the librarian on your list.

Monday Discussion: Reading Related Pet Peeves

I am going to steal this week's discussion from the Chicago Tribune Book Section's Twitter feed. They asked readers what their reading related pet peeves were.

I have to say my biggest pet peeve is a book that won't lie flat while I am reading it. I like to read while I eat, and I am a neater eater with 2 hands.  I have purchased a leather book weight to hold the pages down, but this is annoying as no matter what I do, it still covers some of the words and has to be moved at least once a page. Not to mention that it needs to be picked up and replaced with each page turn.

As a librarian I get peeved when one author uses different names to write the same series.  I calling you out Jayne Ann Krentz!  She uses the Krentz, Jayne Castle, and Amanda Quick names to write one series. It is a cataloging nightmare, and confuses the patrons. The catalog thankfully pulls up all three authors when you type one in, but it is next to impossible to keep them on the shelf  together. And she is very popular, so people are looking for these books frequently. Thanks for nothing Krentz.

So for today's Monday Discussion, what are your reading related pet peeves? It can be physical peeves or peeves about the way an author writes.  Really anything that gets on your nerves. Today, I am asking you to vent! Don't hold back on me.

To follow and or comment on past Monday Discussions, click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

BPL Book Discussion: The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader: A NovelOn Monday, our group met to discuss The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. Here is the official plot summary:
Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths in which the reader quickly finds it's nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction, but as Towner Whitney points out early on in the novel, "There are no accidents."
Now to the discussion.
  • Only 2 people really liked the novel, while 1 did not and the rest (10) were so-so.  One of the "likes" said she enjoyed how the book had, "a little bit of everything." She enjoyed how you never knew what was going to happen and it moved right along.  This led the "dislike" person to chime in that these were all the reasons she did not like it.
  • The so-so's all agreed that they enjoyed the book as they read it, but once they finished, they felt there were too many shades of gray, and didn't not see the overall point.
  • Towner: Everyone liked Towner, even though she tells the reader that she is a liar on the first page. Towner's redemption; her final ability to overcome her severe mental illness after years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father, was the point of the book. We were all rooting for Towner.
  • The problems we had with the book stem from the fact that everything was so unclear. The book is unsettling and confusing because we are seeing most things through Towner's eyes. She is unsettled and confused. The author is trying to make us feel like Towner, we decided.  However, everything felt too purposely concealed and confused.
  • The idea of perception versus reality was huge in this novel. We talked about how we confront this in our lives all of the time. Towner had a very difficult time making these distinctions, which made it hard for us, the readers to do it too. This unsteady feeling made our group uncomfortable. We agreed that we were supposed to fell this way, but we felt it did not work in the end, since we felt the conclusion was not "worth it." We all felt left down by the "climax" of the story.
  • We all loved the magical Salem setting. It enhanced the mysticism in the story. We liked the use of islands and the sea, and the historical undertones of the novel. Eva's house and the various mystical places in town added to the ambiance.
  • Eva: we grew to like Eva throughout the book, but many of us we disappointed in her choice to kill herself in order to save Towner from her downward spiral of mental illness.We did not find this consistent with what we had learned about Eva. She seemed liked she was too helpful a person, someone who truly wanted to help every lost soul, to give up her work and her life for one person.
  • Lace: we obviously talked a lot about lace. Here is a list of some of the things we talked about in regards to lace and the novel.
    • Lace is a symbol of confusion and life's tangles.
    • This book is written like a piece of lace. It is intricate and interesting, but it is also hard to find order in it.
    • We talked about lace's place in history, family lace, and the art of fine crafts. I had participants share their family craft histories. People talked about lace in their own homes and what they used it for. We wondered if with women working more that these skilled crafts have gotten lost. We decided that this is not the case. Many people shared stories of young people continuing the traditions. We talked about the knitting and crocheting group that meets at the library. This was the most dynamic portion of our discussion.
    • We also talked about the group of abused women who live on the island with May making lace. We all enjoyed this part of the story and wished we had more detail about their lives and work. Their lace sounded beautiful. We also liked how these broken women were taught a beautiful skill, worked in a supportive "circle," buidingt self-esteem. They brought beauty back into their own lives. Towner was confused by May's dedication to these women, and hurt by the attention May gave them, but we thought May did this work because she had tried to help her abused sister and niece, but they always went back to their abuser. She needed to help someone.
  • We talked about the excerpts from "The Lace Reader's Guide," at the beginning of each chapter.  We agreed that as we read the book, the excerpts made no sense, but if you went back and looked at them after finishing the chapter, then you could see that they give us clues into the story.  We spent the most time analyzing the excerpt at the start of Chapter 15. This quote basically says you need to find the still point and the center of a piece of lace if you want to start reading it.  It also says that in lace, past, present, and future are all happening together. This led us to a discussion of looking at the book the same way. If we start in the "center," which I suggested were Towner's journals from her time in the mental hospital, and then worked our way outward, the story came together better; it was easier to "read" this way. However, we also decided that we didn't think liked the idea of reading a book from the middle outward and letting past, present, and future all exists at the same time.  We got the point, but were not impressed.
  • The nice cop, Rafferty came up in discussion but we were worried that he would eventually get taken down by the bad karma of Towner and her family.
  • We didn't spend much time taking about Cal and his religious cult. It bothered us. They were so evil and morally wrong that we did not want to waste our breath. I asked what this book said about religion and spirituality. We felt the most religious character was Rafferty and his kindness did lead to Towner's ultimate redemption. We found May and Ann very spiritual too. We also wished that the kindly reverend at the beginning of the novel, "got more screen time." We all liked him and his relationship with Eva. We wished he stayed in the novel longer.
  • We ended with everyone throwing out single words to describe this book: confusing, strange, unusual, fractious, depressing, lace, mosaic. One participant said she felt like the novel was made up of many metal fragments and we needed a magnet to put it together. 
Overall, we did not really like this book, but our discussion was long and interesting. We focused on what we thought the author was trying to do first, a then thought about whether or not it was successful second. So, this book was a great example of how you do not have to "like" a book for it to make for an interesting discussion. Many of us thought that Barry's ideas were good, but that she needed to get more novels under her belt. A few are going to try her second novel, which reviews say is better.

Overall, I think this book would be good for a group that is interested in crafts, history, and mental illness. One participant said she did think the book was one of the best she read in terms of looking at mental illness from inside the sufferer's head.

Readalikes: The confusion which this novel creates reminded us of last month's title, Await Your Reply, but we all agreed, we thought Chaon's book was executed better.  A few of us were also struck by The Lace Reader's similarity to The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Again, we enjoyed the latter better.

I would also suggest The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve for its focus on the water, mystery, and a mentally fragile female narrator and Her Fearful Symmetry with its focus on twins and mental illness.

Readers may also want to read more books about Salem or Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables.

Next month we will tackle, Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Popular New Book About a Prison Librarian

The hot book of the moment is Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg.  As noted here on Early Word it is rising higher than the National Book Award nominees on Amazon and NPR had this interview with Steinberg.

After overhearing a friend talking about this book, I mentioned how I have always wanted to work in a prison library. She was shocked. I don't think she believed me, but it is true. I don't think I ever will work in one, but it has always intrigued me. I will at least read the book.

For the record, this marks the second time this year that a book about librarians is getting so much attention. I guess the larger world find us interesting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RA for All Horror Updates Including New Book Reviews

Here's a round up of what has been going on at RA for All: Horror.

First, just for fun, check out this great chart asking you to rate the danger level of a zombie.

I have also posted reviews of Joe Hill's new graphic novel, Crown of Shadows, a link to this article about Quirk Books-- creators of "The Mash-Up,"  a review of Let Me In from 2009, and a post on haunting reads for Halloween from the folks at Books on the Nightstand.

I have also begun building the page of "Whole Collection Reading Options." This is a page of links for books that are not horror, but may appeal to horror readers. It combines original work I have done and information from all over the Internet.

So click on over to RA for All: Horror to get ready for the hordes of horror patrons who are about to descend upon the library.  Now that I think of it, you may really need that zombie chart for more than just a chuckle.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Graphic Novel Reading List for College Students

Author Alexander Chee taught a very popular seminar on the graphic novel at my alma mater, Amherst College.  Since the moment he stopped teaching the class, he has been asked to share his thoughts on this seminar by so many friends and colleagues that he recently composed this post on his blog entitled, "On Teaching the Graphic Novel."

At the bottom of my post here, I will be re-posting his reading list; however, I highly suggest reading his thoughtful essay on his methods, theories, arguments, and experiences in teaching this class.

I was happy to see I have read most of the titles. Also many of them also appear on my very popular "Graphic Novels for Grown-Ups" list.

I think if you are an adult who is interested in the graphic novel as literature or if you are new to the format and want a list of the very best the format has to offer, read this essay.

If you are a librarian who does not have a handle on your graphic novel collection for adult readers, stop reading my post and click to Chee's right now.

If you are a library who wants to highlight the very best of graphic novels, use Chee's (or my) list to create a display. Each time we chose to highlight graphic novels at the BPL, we gain more adult readers. And once they start reading graphic novels, they become part of that readers regular rotation of books.

No matter your situation, if you are someone who wants to read the best books out there today, you are missing some great literature if you don't read graphic novels.

My only complaint here is that this class wasn't taught when I was a student.

Here's the list:
The ENGL 74 Amherst College Memorial Reading List:
American Born Chinese, Gene Yang
Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine
Mother Come Home, Paul Hornschmeier
Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware
Pyongyang, Guy Delisle
Exit Wounds, Rutu Modan
Aya, Margaret Abouet
Blankets, Craig Thompson
In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman
Maus, Art Spiegelman
Lucky, Gabrielle Bell
Jar of Fools, Jason Lutes
Curses, Kevin Huizenga
Life Sucks, Jessica Abel
La Perdida, Jessica Abel
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, Jessica Abel & Matt Madden
Ghost World, Daniel Clowes
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller
Ronin, by Frank Miller
Night Fisher, R. Kikuo Johnson
Watchmen, Alan Moore
Top Ten: The 49′ers, Alan Moore
Black Hole, Charles Burns
McSweeney’s 13, edited by Chris Ware
Scott Pilgrim 1, Brian Lee O’Malley
Battle Angel Alita 1, Yukito Kishiro
Banana Fish vol. 6, Akimi Yoshida (Volumes 1-19 exist)
Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1, Kazuo Koike
Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1, Joss Whedon
The Tale of One Bad Rat, Bryan Talbot
Blue Pills, Frederik Peeters
Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcenet
Prosopopus, Nicolas de Crécy
Dogs and Water, Anders Nilsen
Monologues for Gauging the Density of Black Holes, Anders Nilsen
Poor Sailor, Sammy Harkham
Persepolis, Marjan Satrapi
Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
Epileptic, David B.
Powr Mstrs Vol. 1
What It Is, Lynda Barry
The City, Franz Masereel
Incognegro, Mat Johnson
7 Miles A Second, by David Wojnarowicz
MOME, various issues (a quarterly journal of comics)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Can't Ignore the Power of the Amish Romance

Over the weekend on NPR, Scott Simon did this interview with Shelley Shepard Gray about her steamy Amish romances. My husband did a double take. "What?" he asked me.

"Yeah, that's about right," I said.

"No seriously," he pleaded, "It's a joke right?"

I forget, working at the library, that I know the current leisure reading trends before the vast majority of the population. In this case, I have been watching people checking out the Amish romances for at least the last 3 years with a steady build up of interest over that time.

It all started with Beverly Lewis and has moved into Gray. I cannot keep any books with Amish character on the shelf. And now that Scott Simon has jumped on the band wagon, I may need multiple copies.

This has been an interesting trend to observe. Overall, the interest in Christian Fiction has waned at my library, while non-religious inspirational fiction has exploded. But the Amish romance has bucked this trend, steadily increasing and building to its current rock star status. Try one, you might be surprised.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Discussion: Jazzing Up Your Book Club

I have book club on the brain right now. Today is my monthly BPL book discussion (look for a full report on The Lace Reader later in the week), and at our meeting we will begin the 2 month process of choosing out books for the first half of 2011. In the meantime, a bunch of us on the BPL staff are organizing ourselves for an after hours book club starting in January.

But wait...there's more. I am also giving my popular program for patrons entitled, "Recharge Your Book Club" on the 26th at the La Grange Public Library (click here to register for this free program).

This program has been successful at libraries in the past, and is filled with many tips and tricks to reinvigorate any book club. Trust me, I have been leading the same group for 10 years and we are still going strong.

One of my favorite tips is to pick books that are not brand new. So many book groups want to read "the hot book," in book club, but getting your hands on the hot book is often difficult. This leads to grumpy participants. Getting your hands on the book easily should be one of the group's main goals.

Also, sometimes, it is a back list gem that really energizes your group.  Last year we read a best seller from the 1990s, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it was a huge hit. People who had read it back when it first came out were happy to revisit it, and those who had never read it were glad to have had the chance.  We are doing the same thing with Julia Child's My Life in France in December. However, in general, our group's rule is that the book must be out in paperback, generally insuring that it will be procurable for our patrons.

My favorite resource for new ideas is the Booklist blog, Book Group Buzz. They even have a tag for "Book Club Tips." But if you want more tips from me, you are going to have to come to the program.

So for today's Monday Discussion, what would you suggest to a book group in the doldrums? What idea have worked for groups you have led or been in? And adding alcohol does not count.  Let me know ideas for all age ranges of book groups too. I will give full credit to anyone's ideas that I use in the program next week.

To follow past Monday Discussions click here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baseball Reads

It is that time of year again. The championship series for baseball begin tonight.

Living in Chicagoland for the past 13 years I have noticed that people here are very good at ignoring baseball's existence once the playoffs roll around (except for 2005 when the White Sox won the World Series; that year, baseball was all people would talk about). All the sports talk these days is about Da Bears, the Blackhawks and the Bulls. Although I like these teams, I am a Jersey girl who loves her Yankees, and just I love this time of year.

Despite lower television ratings, baseball is still "America's Pastime," and as a result, there is a great literary tradition of baseball fiction.  Personally, I am a big fan of any fiction featuring baseball, so I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

Take the books I am suggesting, add a few of your own ideas, and set up a small baseball themed display at your library to coincide with the World Series. It will catch the attention of even the most casual babseball fan. The idea is to play off (pun intended) what is going on in the world when you are displaying books. Your patrons like that what they have been hearing about in the media, or what has been on their mind, is reflected in the books you are highlighting. It shows them we care.

So here are some of my personal favorites in baseball fiction. This is by no means a comprehensive list. And, I cannot even begin to scratch the surface for nonfiction, but at least when it comes to assembling nonfiction for a display, you can gather them all by call number quite easily. Please post a comment to add your own baseball fiction suggestions too.
  • I love W.P. Kinsella. Many of you may know his book Shoeless Joe from which the film Field of Dreams was adapted.  But my personal favorite is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy in which the Cubs play a game against a team of amateurs, a game which may have never ended.
  • Another classic is The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover.  This cult favorite is a must read for both baseball fans and anyone who plays fantasy sports (I am both).  Here Henry creates an elaborate single-player, 8 team baseball league, using dice to control the players and teams.  As he gets more involved with his "game," Henry loses touch with his real life. It is a haunting and comic story.
  • Steven King loves baseball too. The good news for non-horror readers is that King's baseball books are not in that genre.  Try this year's novella, Blockade Billy or the wonderfully haunting Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which is one of my go-to titles for someone who wants a "good read" but cannot bear to be more specific.
  • If you have never read The Natural by Bernard Malamud (and no, watching the movie does not count), now is the perfect time of year to check it out. It is the story of a past his prime baseball player, who, when he finally gets his chance on a big stage, shines! Malamud is a wonderful storyteller. If you have only read The Natural, try something else by him.
  • In Summerland, Michael Chabon has created a young adult, fantasy for baseball fans of all ages. Set on a Washingotn State island, a new resident who is a ball bad player, gets recruited to play  baseball, in games that they need to win in order to save the world.
  • Pete Hamill often includes babseball in his historical novles about immigrants in New York. It makes perfect sense since baseball, and Americaare so intrinsically linked in our national consciousness.  Snow in August has the most blatant baseball storyline, as it is set against the summer that Jackie Robinson came to the Brooklyn Dodgers, and tells the story of how a young Irish boy and a Rabbi bond over the game.
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is a book I have talked about on this blog before. The story is about a man whose memory only lasts 80 minutes, but one thing he can remember is baseball statistics. This novel is set in Japan and has a moving and memorable scene where the main characters all go to a baseball game for the first time. Even readers like me who have been to dozens of professional baseball games will be moved by this scene. It will bring back memories of your first time too.
  • Many years ago I had fun reading, Castro's Curveball by Tim Wendel.  This is not a great work of literature, but it is a fun story for baseball fans. Castro's Curveball imagines what Fidel Castro's baseball career could have been like through the eyes of an old American who played with him.
  • Philip Roth's The Great American Novel, is not one of his best known works, but it is a satirical novel which takes a very un-nostalgic look at baseball.
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo is one of my all-time favorite books and the entire thing hinges on on baseball. As the novel opens it is October 3, 1951 and at the Polo Grounds, Bobby Thomson hits “the shot heard round the world,” while half way around the world, the Soviets test their first atomic bomb.  The story then jumps to 1992 in the American desert where Nick Shay, a waste analyst who now owns that famous baseball, reunites with a former lover, Kara Sax.  DeLillo uses the two stories that of the fate of the ball, told from beginning to end, and that of Shay and Sax, told from the end to the beginning, interweaving real historical characters, to create a web of interconnected experiences that recounts the shared experience of all Americans in Cold War America.
  • Play For A Kingdom by Thomas Dyja brings together two of my favorite fictional frames, baseball and the Civil War. Here Union and Confederate soldiers meet before a huge battle to play baseball.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Awards News Roundup

It has been a busy week in major literary awards. First, the Man Booker Award was announced.  This year's winner was Harold Jacobson for his novel, The Finkler Question, which thankfully came out this week in America.  You can click here for the official announcement. For a collection of reviews of the novel, click here.

The Man Booker Award and its historical list of past winners and nominees is a great list to use when selecting book discussion titles. I don't know what it is exactly about them as a group, but books singled out for this prize tend to lend themselves to an excellent book discussion, more so than any other award group taken as a whole.

On a personal note, when assessing my personal reader profile, I have noted that quite often, winning a Booker is enough of an appeal for me to enjoy a book. I don't know why, it just is. So rest assured, I am as weird as your patrons when it comes to why I like something.

In other book award news, the National Book Foundation announced their nominees for the National Book Award yesterday. Here is the full list.  What is of note here is the controversy around what was NOT nominated.  That would be Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  Read more about it here.

I have to say, I was not surprised that it wasn't nominated. As you can see in my review, it was good, but not great.

The National Book Award winners will be announced on November 17th.

Page 99 Test?

Meetings, writing the new book, and a trip to the pumpkin patch put RA for All on hold yesterday. But fear not, I am back with a fun exercise.

A few websites and blogs I follow do something call the page 69 test. Basically, the idea is you can get a good sense of the feel of a book by turning to page 69 and reading it. There is a variant called the page 99 test, which Rebecca Vnuk blogged about on Book Group Buzz last week. This test is attributed to Ford Maddox Ford who said, “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”

To see an archive of reviews based on the page 69 test click here. And for a list of page 99 test reviews, click here.

When I first heard of these tests a few years ago, I realized I had been doing something similar for years. At the BPL out tech services staff put the accession date for adult fiction in the spine of page 100.  Just for fun, I often turn to that page and read what is there.

I have to say from experience, reading a page of a fiction title a good chunk of the way in, is a useful exercise. You will not know the plot, but you will get a taste of what the book has to offer. Plot you can find on the book jacket or on Amazon, but the feel of the book is hard to get short of reading the book.

Try it for yourself. Also, I would suggest looking at the archives of the page 69 or 99 tests above and pick out a book you have already read. See if the reviewer got the feel of the book right or not, in your experience. If you cannot find one that works for you, compare this page 69 test of The Reapers Are the Angles to my review of the same book. I think it works.

I can see using this exercise with patrons. The next time a patron is not sure if she will like a book that I am suggesting to her, I will have her turn to page 100 and read what is there, reminding her to see if she likes the feel of the book.

If you try this yourselves or with patrons, please let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

50 Best First Novels and Me Live in La Grange

I am always looking for interesting book lists to pass on to my patrons who claim to have, "read everything you have here."

I also gather lists for when I am stumped (yes, it happens to the best of us). Sometimes you are having an off day, and your brain cannot come up with a good backlist title that is actually on the shelf.

However, a good list with a variety of options is hard to come by.; in fact, I use a large compilation of lists, a mash-up of you will, that I have accumulated over time.  But today I have one for you that has well written, well received, popular titles from many different genres.

From Learn-gasm (hate the name, but bare with me) is this list of the 50 Most Famous and Impressive Debut Novels of All Time.

Of course there are some obvious titles here like the first Harry Potter and The Hobbit, but there are also some great options like Player Piano and White Teeth.

The list is in chronological order and it goes up to 2007.

I would also suggest this list for book clubs who are in a rut. Which reminds me, if your book club is in a rut, I am presenting my book club program for patrons entitled, "Recharge Your Book Cub" on October 26th at 7pm at the La Grange Public Library. Use the link to register. It is free and open to anyone who can get themselves there.
balcom.jpgFirst novels by famous authors is one of my popular tips to jazz up your book club selections, but in full disclosure, I originally got that trick from Ted Balcom back when he trained me to lead book clubs. Hope to see you there.