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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spotlight on Westerns

If you work in a library today you know this much is true about Westerns--you can count on your fingers the number of Western questions you get in a year, yet somehow when you check the circ stats, you find that the books are still getting checked out.

When I first started at the Berwyn Library almost 12 years ago (Yikes!), Westerns had their own section, but they were on a different floor from the rest of the adult fiction.  When we moved them back down stairs soon after creating the RA department and interfiled them with the rest of fiction (keeping their identifying "western" sticker though), there were grumbles, but the complaints didn't hurt the circ stats on the titles.  We found that Westerns were being checked out more after giving up their private real estate.

While the circ stats on Westerns are nowhere near those for Mysteries or even Urban Fiction (for which we have way fewer titles), the collection still stands its ground.  We continue to add new Westerns to our collection.

Right now, we have our annual Western display up .  Each year we puill out the Westerns and let them relive their time in their own section.  For a month they get to shine on their own display.  John has created a very catchy and fun sign on the display and included an annotated list of titles you might want to try.

Looking at the display while working the last few days, I was inspired to share some of my favorite modern western titles and authors with you.  The point I am trying to make is that anyone can read Westerns. So here are a few of my favorite Westerns and their cousins, otherwise known as Novels of the West.

  • Hondo by Louis L'Amour is an amazing novel.  If you are looking for the definition of a great read, look no further.  Do not be turned off by a hokey cover (if yours has one).  Read this book.  Each semester I manage to convince one student to do so and every single one has loved it.
  • In the same vein, don't forget about Larry McMurtry.  His Westerns appeal to a wide audience.  
  • I read Peace Like A River by Leif Enger years ago, but it has stayed with me.  I still hand it out to people.  This is a quirky story of a family in trouble in the upper plains, but in contemporary times.
  • Ivan Doig is another author I want to highlight.  As I wrote for the NoveList author descirption for Doig: "Ivan Doig has turned his personal experiences into award-winning literary novels and personal histories of the West. These are not your grandfather's Westerns however, as gun-play and cattle-herding take a back seat to people and places. Doig writes both fiction and nonfiction which recounts the history of Western Montana. A typical Doig Western follows a family as they attempt to settle, live, and prosper in an unforgiving environment. Readers enjoy his lyrical prose, deliberate pacing, and vivid scenery. Doig's books are ultimately hopeful, paying homage to his forebearers. Start with: The Whistling Season"
  • But probably my favorite writer of Novels of the West today is Brady Udall.  Click here for my review of The Lonely Polygamist (which has some amazing descriptions of the landscape of the West.  Also, click here to see my Browsers Corner post on The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.
If you want to see the latest news in the world of Westerns, go to the recently revised homepage of the Western Writers of America.

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