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.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BPL Book Discussion Schedule: Jan-June 2011

The votes have been tallied and the titles selected. Here is the official list of what my group will be discussing on the third Monday of each month at 2 pm from January to June 2011.  Anyone is welcome to join us.

January 17th
The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo
February 28th
Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
March 21st
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
April 18th
The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
May 16th
Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell
June 20th
Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin

To see what other groups the BPL has to offer, for all ages, click here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What I'm Reading: In the Woods

In the Woods
After years of book talking In the Woods to patrons, I finally got around to listening to it myself.  Thank goodness.  I loved it.

Good timing too, because French's newest suspense book, Faithful Place is on the top of most people's "Best of 2010" lists.  Since there is a hold list of Faithful Place, I can now talk with authority about French's style.  For the record, her books are not a series, although they are loosely linked.  You can read them in any order.

 In the Woods can best be described as: police procedural meets psychological suspense.  This is a dark book, with an extremely flawed narrator.  Bad things are happening here and even when the crime is "solved," no one is satisfied; in fact, just about everyone involved with the case has been ruined as a result of the investigation.   And the kicker is, you know that it will not end well from the start, but you are so compelled by the complex plot, the interesting, 3-dimensional characters and their interactions that you cannot look away.  I found myself cleaning out a closet, just so I could have 1 hour to myself to listen to this novel. I was completely absorbed by the story, the atmosphere, and the characters.  Even when not much was happening, I needed to keep listening.  It was a bit scary, like an addiction.

Here is part of the Booklist starred review which give plot and appeal:
Rob Ryan and his partner, Cassie Maddox, land the first big murder case of their police careers: a 12-year-old girl has been murdered in the woods adjacent to a Dublin suburb. Twenty years before, two children disappeared in the same woods, and Ryan was found clinging to a tree trunk, his sneakers filled with blood, unable to tell police anything about what happened to his friends. Ryan, although scarred by his experience, employs all his skills in the search for the killer and in hopes that the investigation will also reveal what happened to his childhood friends. In the Woods is a superior novel about cops, murder, memory, relationships, and modern Ireland. The characters of Ryan and Maddox, as well as a handful of others, are vividly developed in this intelligent and beautifully written first novel, and author French relentlessly builds the psychological pressure on Ryan as the investigation lurches onward under the glare of the tabloid media. Equally striking is the picture of contemporary Ireland, booming economically and fixated on the shabbiest aspects of American popular culture. An outstanding debut.
As this review says, the building psychological pressure was spectacular.  Rob Ryan is a troubled man who has never come to terms with the tragedy in his own life.  And a word of warning here, those looking for him to rise above, finally confront his past, and get the answers he has been searching for, should not read this novel.  This book does not tie up loose ends.  It is all about the mood and the characters here.  And although I had sort of figured out who the ultimate "bad guy" was, even I was shocked and surprised by how it all turned out.  The villain here is bad; very evil, very twisted, and very conniving.  I was left with chills.

This is a disturbing and dark book, but it is also compelling, with a pace that broods at first, then steadily builds.  I also happen to enjoy Irish settings, and this one is authentic, written by a life-ling resident.  I also enjoyed the complexity of the female characters, especially Cassie and Rosalind.  This is a haunting story (without a single ghost though) which will stay with you long after you turn the last page

And like all good psychological suspense, the main conflict is resolved, but the overall ending is open.  I would actually call it more dangling.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  haunting, psychological suspense, disturbing

Readalikes:  Tana French's dark atmosphere, characters, and complex plots would appeal to fans of Nordic Noir.  Specifically, I would suggest Stieg Larsson, Asa Larsson, Henning Mankell, Per Petterson, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

French also reminds me of some of my favorite psychological suspense titles and authors.  Specifically, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, anything by Peter Abrahams, and specifically, the stories of Ripley by Patricia Highsmith would resonant here.

Monday Discussion: Gift Books

People love to give and get books for the holidays. My friends and family expect me, the RA extrodinaire, to get them the perfect holiday book.  But I am not the only one out there buying books for the people on my list.

To start off this "Cyber Monday," I thought I would point you to some of the better book holiday guides and share some of my favorite gift books for the hard to buy people on your list:
Now on to my secrets.  Books are a great gift for the person who has everything.  One of my favorite books to give out at the holidays is The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford.  It is a moving tribute to a holiday classic. It is short but interesting, and you could reread it every year. Also, many people do not already own it.  Click here (and scroll to the bottom of the post) to see a full report about when I read this book.

I also suggest buying a nice illustrated copy of Dicken's A Christmas Carol or O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  Both are books that capture the holiday spirit for a general audience.  In fact, this year, I am buying all of my kids' teachers a copy of A Christmas Carol and letting the kids inscribe it. Either they can bring it home, or, if they already own it, they can use it in the classroom. Either way, it is a personalized and meaningful gift.

For kids from 5-16, you cannot go wrong with one of the DK Eyewitness Books.  They have a book on every topic you could imagine.  For example, my daughter is in to weather and mummies right now and my son loves dinosaurs, birds, and Star Wars.  Each link will lead you to a well researched book, with quality photos and text.  They give my kids hours of enjoyment, and adults will enjoy looking through them too.  This is my go-to gift book series for kids.

Now it is your turn.  For today's Monday Discussion: what books are you giving as gifts this year? Is there a favorite book you like to give to people as a gift?  Let me know.

Click here to follow or comment on past Monday Discussions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

BPL Book Discussion: Little Bee

Little Bee: A NovelLast week, my group met to discuss Chris Cleave's enormously popular novel Little Bee. This book has been among the most popular book discussion titles for the last 18 months now.

The one problem with selling this book to book club's is the wacky marketing.  Here is what the back of the book says:
WE DON'T WANT TO TELL YOU TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS BOOK.
It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.
Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:
It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.
The story starts there, but the book doesn't.
And it's what happens afterward that is most important.
Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
From an RA standpoint, I love that the focus is on the appeal of the book rather than the plot.  But for preparing my book club for what to expect, this is less than helpful.  However, thankfully  the good people at Reading Group Guides, who along with questions, posed this more helpful synopsis:
Little Bee, a young Nigerian refugee, has just been released from the British immigration detention center where she has been held under horrific conditions for the past two years, after narrowly escaping a traumatic fate in her homeland of Nigeria. Alone in a foreign country, without a family member, friend, or pound to call her own, she seeks out the only English person she knows. Sarah is a posh young mother and magazine editor with whom Little Bee shares a dark and tumultuous past.

They first met on a beach in Nigeria, where Sarah was vacationing with her husband, Andrew, in an effort to save their marriage after an affair, and their brief encounter has haunted each woman for two years. Now together, they face a disturbing past and an uncertain future with the help of Sarah’s four-year-old son, Charlie, who refuses to take off his Batman costume. A sense of humor and an unflinching moral compass allow each woman, and the reader, to believe that even in the face of unspeakable odds, humanity can prevail. 
Before I talk about particulars, I want to share some over all impressions.  This book is begging to be discussed. In fact, I would not suggest reading it without knowing you have someone to talk to about it.  It is a challenging book to read, both in a literary sense and in an emotional one.  This is not a book with clearly delineated "good guys" and "bad guys."  We are reading about deeply flawed people in a messed up world.  There are no answers here, only more questions, which makes for a great discussion.

Now on to our discussion.  Please note, there are SPOILERS here:
  • Our group was split with 7 people liking Little Bee, 2 disliking, and 7 feeling "so-so."
  • Those who liked the book felt this way because of Little Bee herself. Comments included how strong she was, how she pushed herself to the limit, but grew as a person.  Interestingly, those who did not enjoy the book also cited Little Bee as their reason.  They felt she was too good to be true, even after I told them that Cleave went to a detention center and talked to many refugees to help shape Little Bee's voice.
  • The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Little Bee and Sarah.  Everyone agreed that the switching back and forth between the two narrators made the book better.  We all felt getting only one woman's point of view would have not worked.
  • Another issue of literary construction we discussed was how this novel is in two distinct halves.  The first half is told backward from "the present" back to the day Sarah and her husband met Little Bee on a beach in Nigeria.  While the second half of the book begins at "the present" and goes until the conclusion of the novel.  Although this is a very conscious construction by Cleave, we all agreed that it was not obtrusive.  This style helped allow the story and all of its complex issues to unfold in a fairly natural way.  It is tough to write a novel about atrocities against women and children, suicide, guilt, a broken refugee protection system, and the price of globalism, but by breaking the narrative up, Cleave made it not only palatable, but more personal.
  • We talked a lot about Sarah. This novel is interesting because although Sarah is one of our 2 main characters, she is not easy to like. She is an adulterer, her and Andrew only go to Nigeria because she was cheating and she was cheap.  Also, many of us in the group are mothers and we did not agree with her parenting choices, especially the way she endangers her son by taking him to Nigeria and putting him in harm's way.  It was also sad to see how far she had to fall before she grew to appreciate her late husband.
  • We did try to see the novel as Sarah's redemption.  Little Bee is a Christ-like figure.  She is there to show Sarah the error of her ways.  Little Bee even sacrifices herself for Charlie (Sarah's son) at the end in case we didn't get it.  If we see the novel as the book Sarah finally wrote to open the world's eyes to the atrocities against women in Nigeria, then her redemption is complete.
  • Not everyone agreed with this assessment.  Many participants felt that while that may be what Cleave was trying to say, they did not feel Sarah changed enough.
  • We talked about displaced persons and their plight.  Some people shared personal experiences with family who lived through these camps.
  • When Little Bee enters a new place, she always first finds a way to kill herself "in case the men come to get her." Although this was unsettling at first, we understood that this was her way of gaining power over the uncertainty of her life.
  • Man's inhumanity to man is a huge theme in this book.  We talked about how generation after generation has observed this phenomenon yet we have made no progress at overcoming this. Also, the dysfunction of Sarah and Andrew makes us question how we can behave better as humans when we cannot behave as a family.  But we also decided that this story should be seen as an allegory, hinting at the hope for humanity.  Little Bee is so good, and does so much with her short life, that we should see this as hope.  She may have died, but not before she got others to share their stories of persecution with Sarah, who will now make it her life's mission to publish these stories and let the voices of the oppressed be heard by the world.
  • Everyone agreed that this was a superbly written novel.
  • In terms of the ending, I asked people to give me a word or phrase to describe it.  I got: powerful, inevitable, peace (that's what Little Bee's real name is), hope for humanity. This would not have been a believable story if Little Bee were able to stay in England as a British citizen.
Readalikes:  I thought about The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini as I read Little Bee.  Both are about young people in difficult situations in a foreign land.  Both are fairly "current events" centered and both feature an extremely flawed narrator; both Sarah and Amir are the cause of much of the bad things that happen.

The NoveList book discussion guide also suggests, Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and What is the What by David Eggers, which both have African settings.  Day After Night by Anita Diamant, The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi, and The Road Home by Rose Tremain are also mentioned.

Others have suggested Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese as an interesting pairing, especially for book discussion groups.

Some readers may want to learn more about the violence in NIgeria, especially as it pertains to the oil industry.  For those readers I would suggest starting with A Swamp Full of Dollars by Michael Peel.

Best Books of 2010: Weekly Update

The list of the best books lists is now growing at light speed.  Again, go on over to Largehearted Boy's aggregated list of best lists to see any changes or updates.

However, I specifically wanted to point your attention to this list in Library Journal.  It takes the authors of their top ten books of the year and asks them what they are working on next.  Click through to see for yourself.

I think this is a novel way to market your best list and make it standout.  At this time of year, if you are not THE first list, your list gets lost in the shuffle.  Kudos to Library Journal on this great marketing tool, that also happens to be very useful.

Also, thanks to Cindy Orr and her RA Rundown for pointing me to the article.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BPL Display: November 2010

I have been derelict in posting our two wonderful current displays at the BPL right now.

On the small display we have Senior Spotlight. This display and the list were compiled by Sharon and focus on books in which a senior citizen is the protagonist.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many books feature fun and nuanced portrayal of seniors.  These are great reads for anyone of any age. Check out the list or the display if you are in the area.

On the tall display, we have books featuring Native Americans in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.  The annotated list focuses on more recent titles. This is an annual display tradition at the BPL and always proves itself to be quite popular.

We also have a small display with suggestions of books featuring Thanksgiving prominently.  But that brochure is only available in the library building.

Again, whether you live near the BPL or are on the other side of the globe, use this link to access our current lists and this one to access past lists.  Feel free to bring the lists to your local library to find your next good read.

Monday Discussion: What Are You Thankful For?

This week's Monday Discussion is a no-brainer.  I thought I would use the Thanksgiving holiday to give us all the time to reflect on what we are most thankful for, but in terms of our reading lives. I'll go first.

I am most thankful for the fact that it is my job to read and write about books.  I am thankful that I have a career which revolves around helping others to find their next good read, and that I am able to train librarians to help their patrons with their leisure reading needs. Getting pad for all of this is a dream come true.

I am thankful for my ladies in the book club.  We will have been together 10 years come this January.  They are a lively bunch of "mature women." (their favorite phrase to describe themselves) I look forward to our meetings as much as they do.  We learn from each other, and have shared many great books over the years.  Click here to see what we have read and talked about over that time.

I am thankful that my children love to read.  I realize that the fact that my husband and I are readers helps this.  But I know plenty of librarians who love to read, whose children are reluctant readers.  I am thankful that my kids look forward to a rainy day with no school so they can finish their Percy Jackson novel.

I am thankful for my colleagues at the BPL, Dominican University, NoveList, ALA Editions and the ARRT Steering Committee who share my love of reading and my passion for training progressive and responsive librarians.

Finally, I am thankful for all of you who read this blog and use it to help yourselves or your patrons.

Now, please share your reading realted thankful list with me.

You can always follow and or comment on past Monday Discussions here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are You Kidding Me?

This post is from Early Word (my comments to follow):

More LORD OF MISRULE On the Way
The good news: you published the winner of the National Book Award in fiction.
The bad news: you only printed 8,000 copies
Publisher Bruce McPherson tells the Wall Street Journal that another printing of Jaimy Gordon’sLord of Misrule should be available by Dec. 3.
So far, however, library demand is not going through the roof. At four large library systems we checked, the number of holds for this year’s Booker winner, The Finkler Question, is seven times those for Lord of Misrule.
We’re willing to bet that this is the first National Book Award winner to be reviewed by The Daily Racing Form.
Congrats to Gordon’s home town public library, Kalamazoo P.L. They nabbed her for a program on Dec. 3rd.
Okay, now my comments.  This is outrageous.  Gordon's novel has been nominated for the NBA for over a month now.  Why did they not plan for more than 8,000 copies?  Simply the nomination makes it order worthy for most public library collections.  8,000 does not cover that and any other interest that the nomination brings.  Also, the nomination meant it would have been reviewed in the major newspapers, win or lose. This adds up to more copies being purchased too.

Seriously, this is basic business planning.  McPherson really screwed this up in my opinion.  This will hurt their chances to get more hot authors too.  I have no idea if the book is as good as people say (since I can't get a copy right now), but I hope the publishers gets more copies out there so people can read it and decide for themselves.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

National Book Awards

The National Books Awards really are the Oscars of the book world.  It is not about the winners as much as it is about the speeches, the guest list, and the honorary awards.  I mean the big fiction winner was only released to the public this past Tuesday.

So here is an article from The Book Beast which is about the ceremony itself.  Sure the award winners are listed, but you probably saw those already.  Read this to see what the night was like.  And use this official link to access some videos.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Legendary Audiobook Reader on NPR

George Guidall has narrated over 900 audiobooks in his long and distinguished career.  He is one of the key narrators I discuss with my students every semester too.


Yesterday, he was on NPR talking about his career and, more importantly, the appeal of audiobooks.  Obviously the topic was quite popular as it made my "Most Emailed Stories" podcast for NPR.  Click here to read and or listen to the interview for yourself.


Anyone who enjoys audiobooks will love this interview.  Those of you who don't get the whole audio thing, also need to listen to see why the rest of us love it.  Listen to it if you can, to hear Guidall at work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Updates to Year's Best Lists

I am going to apologize in advance for the rest of the week's posts.  I will be doing a lot of redirecting you to other sites this week as I put in four solid days of work on the new book.  Hopefully, it will be just about done after that, so bear with me.

Today, I wanted to remind you that many new best lists came out since last week's post.  Click here for the updates from Largehearted Boy.

Also, the National Book Award will be announced tomorrow night.  Don't know anything about the nominees? Don't worry, Ron Charles will get you up to speed with this video in his Totally Hip Book Reviews series.



I promise to be back with original content next week with reviews of at least 3 books I have recently finished, including a full report on my book group's discussion of Little Bee.  Also, start thinking about what you are thankful for in your reading for next week's Monday Discussion. In the meantime, check back daily for interesting links.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Discussion: Series...Fan or Foe?

Many readers love series.  They like that the story continues over many books. They enjoy reading a book with characters they have grown to love.  And finally, I have found many people like series because they know what they are going to get ahead of time.  Trying a new author can mean that you will be disappointed; many readers like the guarentee that a series brings.  It may not be the best book they ever read, but they know what to expect.

On the other hand, there are also readers who do NOT want series.  Why? For these readers there are also many reasons.  Some don't want to get addicted to one series with so much out there to read.  Others simply do no enjoy revisiting the same characters over and over.  Still others are overwhelmed by how many books are in a given series and are afraid if they start, they will never finish, so they just don't start.

As for me, I read a lot of first books in an series. This is so I get a sense of what readers can expect from the author and the series. Think about it from my perspective.  I have to know about as many books as possible.  If I read one Janet Evanovich out of the 16+ in the series, I can understand the basic appeals of the series and be able to suggest it to the appropriate reader, and still red 15 other books by 15 different authors.  I look to reviews to see if a series changes in style and tone over time.  If it does, I may need to read a later book in the series.

I also read only one book in a series quite often because I simply do not have time to read only series.  Again, I need to read a range of books, so I do not have the luxury of reading the same series.

When I do read a series, it is usually for fun and escape.  They make great vacation reads.  Some of the series I try to keep up with are the Spellman Mysteries by Lisa Lutz, The Bookmobile Mysteries by Ian Sansomthe Vish Puri Mysteries by Tarquin Hall, and any series by Jasper Fforde. (All links are to times I have mentioned these books)

But what about you? For today's Monday discussion, how do you feel about series? What patron behavior in regards to series have you noticed? Do you read series or do you avoid them? Are there some series you are a junkie for? Or, are you baffled by those who live and die by their series reads?

Click here to follow past Monday Discussions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Historical Fiction for 2011

The Adult Reading Round Table steering committee had its planning meeting for our 2011 programming last week, and among other decisions, we picked our new genre for a two year genre study.  By popular demand, it will be Historical Fiction.

Interestingly, I was also contacted to provide a three hour historical fiction training for librarians in April of 2011. Historical fiction seems to be very hot right now. At least in the circles I travel.

A few weeks ago I had this post about the blog Reading the Past.  From my valuable RSS feed of the blog I also got this link to the forthcoming historical fiction titles of note.  It lists titles through August.

So if you are one of the many readers clamoring for historical fiction, here is what you have to look forward to.

For the record, the most popular pre-pub historical fiction at my library right now is the new Jean Auel book, The Land of Painted Caves, which is not even due to come out until 3/29/11.  I took my first hold for it in back in June!

Look for more from me on historical fiction in the coming months.  With the genre study and my presentation in April, I think I will focus on historical fiction in my own work in 2011.  I will share all of my work product here, including an overview in April. I will probably do a display at the BPL some time this spring too. After the last 18 months immersed in horror, it will be a big, but fun, shift.

All posts about historical fiction, past, present, and future can be accessed by clicking here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Great Essay on Westerns

It is the 25th Anniversary of both Lonesome Dove and Blood Meridian. To honor these modern Westerns, Allen Barra has a great essay on The Book Beast about the entire genre.

Whether you like Westerns or not...simply, if you like reading in general, this is a great essay. Maybe it will inspire you to read a Western yourself.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Memories of the School Book Fair

Most of today and half of yesterday I was working at my daughter's elementary school book fair.  As a working mom, I have to be choosy on what I agree to volunteer for at school.  I spend a few days a month helping in the school library and help out on an as needed basis in the classroom.  But the book fair is the one event I cannot miss. I give up multiple days of work to help every year

First, I love to help because "selling books" is what I do. I worked with the kids on preview day helping them to create their wish lists. I use my RA skills to find their key appeal factors and then point them to the books they would most enjoy.  The next day I used those same skills to convince the parents to buy books for their kids.  The parents know that I know what I am doing and seek me out for help and advice.  I love that I have a skill that truly helps the school earn money.  The fact that it involves books is just a bonus.

But I think more than anything, I love to help at the book sale because of the memories it brings back.  I can still remember the book sales at Robert Hunter Elementary. I remember the joy of walking through the library and looking at all of the brand new books on the tables. I remember touching them, holding them, and bringing my parents in to buy some for me and my sisters.

Working my daughter's sale brings all of those memories back.  The best moment I had was yesterday when the Kindergarten class came in, late in the afternoon. They were the last class to come in, we were all tired from 3 hours of helping students from first through sixth grade, and everything was finally quiet.  I watched their joy as they saw the sale for the very first time.  I helped them write down the books they wanted on their wish lists. But I also saw them get distracted from the list writing task, and one by one, find a book, lie down on the floor with it, and start reading.  The teacher was torn between her need to get them on task and her appreciation of their joy.  In the end, she let them keep reading until it was time to go. It was a joy to see.

Although the last few days were very busy as I worked the sale instead of working on the book, I would not trade the experience for anything.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Best Book Club Books Lists

Like me, many book discussion group participants are beginning the process of choosing new books for the new year.

I was reminded of this by the RA Online weekly "Under the Radar List" this week which was entitled, Great Reads for Book Clubs.

This list is great, the problem is, my group has done almost every one of these books.  If your group has been around awhile, you probably have too.

So where do I go to find ideas for what to discuss. Here are a few of my favorite resources to help you narrow down what titles your group would most enjoy:
Finally, remember that I publish a report on every book my group discusses.  You can access these posts by using the book discussion books tag.

I hope your 2011 book discussion planning goes smoothly.  I will be posting the BPL's choices for the first half of 2011 before the end of November.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Annual Aggregated List of Best Books

    Even I cannot keep up with the barrage of best lists coming out every day.   Thankfully, Largehearted Boy is back this year with the aggregated list of all of the best books. (He has one for music too). Click here to access his archive, which also includes his links to the lists from 2008 and 2009! It is updated multiple times a day.

    For those who want to compare the major lists quickly, Early Word had this post doing just that.

    For those of you who want to keep up with the latest news.  Bookmark both of their best list archives here and here.

    Otherwise, I will keep you posted about once a week on the major lists.

    Monday Discussion: Favorite Reading Technology

    Pretty much every week, I get at least one question from a friend or colleague about ebook readers, audio books on the iPod, or some other technology questions as it pertains to reading. Even my kids have been asking.

    Also, as I have mentioned on this blog before, the RA Department at the BPL is purchasing an ebook reader before the end of the year (probably a Sony reader) and the staff is going to spend some time test driving it and thinking about how it could be used by patrons, if at all.

    I realize that until we all take turns using it, with the patron in mind, we will not fully understand all of the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.  For example, I was talking with a staff member at another library about her mother's use of the Kindle.  She said that her mother had all but stopped reading due to eye problems, but now with help from a family member, she has rediscovered her joy of reading on her Kindle. The Kindle is light enough for her to hold it comfortably and she can make the print as big or as little as she wants. Now she is back to her voracious reading.

    My problem with the Kindle is that you can only use it with Amazon, and I would have to buy the ebooks. As a librarian, I rarely buy a book, since I have access to all that I want for free at my work.  The Sony reader I could at least use with my library card to "borrow" ebooks.

    Technology and reading is nothing new, however.  Technology has effected the ways we read for thousands of years.  In fact, if you want to know my favorite reading technological advance, it is the invention of moveable type.  If you want to move closer to the present, I also really like "print on demand." Both are technologies that have made printing books easier and cheaper.

    I am not completely convinced on the ebook reader thing.  In a past Monday Discussion, I listed my opinion on ebooks as opposed to paper ones, here.

    So my question today is, what is your favorite technological advance in reading and books... ever? I am just trying to put this whole ebook phenomenon in perspective.

    To follow past Monday Discussions, click here.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Using Book Trailers @ Your Library

    I have followed the growth of book trailers for some time, but I have never quite figured out how these publisher and/or author produced videos can be used by libraries. Well thanks to blogger Stephen Abram and his work with the School Library Journal Leadership Summit, I wonder no longer. From his report:

    How is your library using these trailers? Here are some ideas:
    1. Start a book trailer blog. Just use the embed code and post 2-3 a day and you have a cute recommendation blog for books in your collection.
    2. Troll publishers’ sites, author sites, author and publisher Facebook pages for trailers and link to them.
    3. I am not good enough at MARC but is there a field to add a link to a trailer in the record?
    4. Feature a trailer on your homepage every day/week.
    5. Have teens and other users make their own trailers for books they like. (Here’s an opportunity for a contest / activity.)
    6. Add more ideas in the comments.
    Click here for his full post including links to book trailers. Personally, I love the idea (#3) of linking the trailers to the MARC record.  This would be cool and extremely useful.

    If you are using book trailers successfully at your library, let me know how.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    What I'm Reading: Once a Spy

    Once A Spy: A NovelIt is not often that I see a debut thriller from a first time novelist getting universal praise, so I took quick notice when the unanimous love for Once A Spy by Keith Thomson was dominating my review journals last month.

    From Publisher's Weekly (via Amazon):
    Huffington Post columnist Thomson's wildly original debut, a darkly satirical thriller, features an unlikely, if endearing, father-son spy duo: retired appliance salesman Drummond Clark, who at age 64 suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and Charlie Clark, a down-on-his-luck gambler who owes $23,000 to Russian loan sharks. Soon after Charlie rescues Drummond from the Brooklyn streets, where he'd been wandering, the older man's house blows up and the two barely escape with their lives. Clark and son begin an adrenaline-fueled cross-country flight in which they must evade ruthless CIA assassins long enough to understand why they're being targeted. During rare moments of lucidity, Drummond hotwires a car and effortlessly kills multiple assailants, suggesting to Charlie he was once much more than just a washing machine salesman. Poignant themes of love and redemption underpin an action-packed story line that includes exotic locales, high-tech gadgetry, and international intrigue.
    So now you know the unique twist here.  I have to tell you the spy with Alzheimer's angel was quite entertaining.  I am not a huge spy novel fan,  but I found this book, fun, fresh, and engaging.  The chapters were short, and although the characters and situations pushed the limits of believability, Thomson bounced around between points of view and plot lines so quickly, that I did not have time to be bothered with questioning if it could really happen.  I was fully along for the ride, and that was a great feeling.

    Specifically, I loved Charlie.  He was the most believable character. Through his adventure with his dad, Charlie was able to face his demons head on, come to terms with his past, and forge a true relationship with his father, built on love and respect, for the first time in his life.  It was the relationship between Charlie and Drummond that was the most compelling story line to me. Without Thomson's attention to their relationship, I don't think I would have enjoyed the book as much.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: spies, fast-paced, father-son relations

    Readalikes:  As I mentioned, I am not a huge spy thriller fan, but I do have a few suggestions of the best writers in the field, right now: Daniel Silva and his Gabriel Allon series are a must read as is Alan Furst.

    In terms of the backlist, Once a Spy is very James Bond like. You may want to check out a Fleming novel or 007 film after reading Thomson's book.  Also, the Robert Ludlum Bourne franchise is worth a read or a viewing.