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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gillian Flynn is the It Girl

In case you forgot, Gillian Flynn is coming to the BPL in July.  Click here for a gentle reminder.

I am so glad we got on the Flynn band wagon back in March because she is everywhere.  Take this Early Word report about 2 more dazzling reviews for Gone Girl.

My review will be up on Tuesday at 7am [I just set it to post automatically].

Summer Genre Reads With Backlist Readalike Options

The Reading List committee for the ALA has released a great new twist on the summer reading list.  As originally published in Library Journal, the introduction states:
"Summer is the perfect time to dive into genre fiction, and members of the American Library Association’s Reading List Council, which annually present its picks for the best in genre fiction, are happy to share some of their favorite summer reading choices. The eight genres the council currently considers include adrenaline titles (suspense, thrillers, and action adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and women’s fiction. The below list pairs each 2012 release with an older read-alike. Whether you choose one of the new books or one of the backlist read-alikes (in grey), you’re sure to find a perfect summer read."

Click through for the list.  It is a nice mix of debuts and well known authors.  I can't decide what I like best, that it is a genre based list of summer reading or that it includes backlist read alike options. Oh, and one of my all-time favorite backlist suggestions, The Ruins by Scott Smith, is on the list too!

This is all too exciting for me.  I need to take a break.  Check out the list for yourself.  And now, every time a patron comes in upset about a hot summer read title being check out, you have this ready made backlist readalike option for them. These books are probably just waiting on the shelf, begging to be read.

Thanks to Early Word for the heads up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Take Ten: Science Fiction for Non SF Readers

In honor of the first ever Science Fiction issue of The New Yorker (which just continues to confirm for me why I have been a subscriber for 15 years and counting), Flavorwire made this annotated list of 10 Great Science Fiction Books for People Who Don't Read Sci-Fi.

It also reminded me of my old list of SF for Beginners which I posted on this blog back in May of 2008.

BPL Book Discussion July-December 2012 Scheudle

The votes were tallied last week.  The orders were placed.  And, yesterday afternoon I stopped by The Book Table to pick up the paperbacks.  So here is the schedule for the next 6 months of book discussions for my group:

Monday Afternoon Group
Meets at 2:00 p.m.

July 16th
The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

August 20th
Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

September 17th
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

October 15th
Still Alice by Lisa Genova

November 19th
One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni

December 17th
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
by Anne Fadiman

Making plans for your group?  If you live in Illinois, check out the BPL's Book Discussion Collection.  We turn the 10 copies we buy for our book club [we inter-libray loan another 10] into a circulating collection for other groups. We will loan you one copy, all 10, or any amount in between.

You can check out the current book club best sellers here.

Also, thanks to Book Group Buzz, I saw this suggestion list by Indie Bound of paperback titles for book clubs.


Finally, if you feel your book club may be beyond repair, don't despair.  I can help:
Are you looking to start your own book club? Has the book club you are already in lost its spark? Do you need direction on where to find good, discussable titles?
With a combined 16 years of book discussion leadership experience, Kathy and Becky from the Library’s Readers’ Advisory Department want to help re-charge your book club. They are willing to come to your book club, wherever you meet, to share their experience, tips, and tricks.
To schedule a visit from Kathy or Becky, please call 708-795-8000 ext 3005 or email ra[at]berwynlibrary[dot]org.

Seriously, give us a call or shoot off an email.  We'd love to share our secrets to success with you and your group.  





Audiobook Essay

I was catching up on by backlog of NY Times Book Reviews and I saw this essay by John Schwartz about his love of audiobooks.

2 things I want to point out about his essay.
  1. Schwartz mentions how awesome Ready Player One is to listen to.  I also commented on this in my review.  Seriously, if you only ever try 1 audiobook, this is the one to go for.  I can't imagine a better way to experience this book.  Schwartz talked to Cline about it for his essay and Cline agrees that Wheaton's narration made his novel better.
  2. Schwartz mentions how he listens to audiobooks while exercising and how that equates to about 7 hours a week--way more than he spends reading print.  I second this.  I listen while exercising and cleaning the house--especially when I am doing dishes, laundry and vacuuming-- all things I cannot do while reading.  In fact, my house is probably only as clean as it is because I get to "read" while cleaning and straightening.  But it also means I listen to a book at least 20 hours a week. That's a lot of reading.
I am still surprised by the number of avid reads who I encounter who systematically dismiss audiobooks as not for them.  If you are one of these people, give an audiobook a try, or at the very least, read Schwartz's essay.  It is bound to inspire you.  In fact, if you read the essay, you will see which best selling author Schwartz inspired to become, "a new convert to the power of auiodbooks."

Also, if you ever want to listen to a sample of any audiobook, click on over to Audible.com.  They have the easiest interface to search for and listen to excerpts. Yes, it is own by Amazon, but I didn't say you had to buy anything.  Just use them for their free excerpts and customer reviews.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Meet Gillian Flynn at the BPL

As you saw in my last post, Gillian Flynn's new novel will be out next week.  But in the meantime, we are proud to announce that she will be visiting the Berwyn Public Library on July 11th at 7pm.  I am also honored that she will allow me to interview her.  Click here for all of her planned appearances.  Here are the details for our event which I prepared for our summer reading promotional materials:
Enter the nightmarish world of award-winning psychological suspense author and Chicago resident Gillian Flynn as she brings her unsettling stories of murderous villains, deadly deceit, and dark family secrets to life.  She will read from her brand new thriller Gone Girl, sign books, and answer questions. The Book Table will be on hand to sell copies of Flynn’s books before, during, and after the program. Sign-up for the public begins June 10th, but Summer Reading Program participants can sign-up and guarantee their seat at this event beginning June 2nd.
So here's the deal.  The event is free.  In fact, I would like to give Flynn props for the fact that she is not charging us to appear as a thanks for our support of her over the years. [She is also prominently featured in Chapter 13 of my new book.]

If you can come in person to the BPL between June 2nd and 9th and are willing to sign up for the summer reading program, we can guarantee you a seat at the event.  You do not need to live in Berwyn to join our summer reading program.  You do not even need to fill out a single reading log to come to the event.  But you may want to read three books and enter our drawing for the grand  prize of a $300 American Airlines Gift Card.

After June 9th, we will begin allowing anyone the opportunity to sign up to see Flynn.  We have a limit of 100 people, so this will be a great chance to see one of today's hottest authors in an intimate setting.

You can email the BPL RA Dream Team or call 708.795.8000 x 3005 for details

Gone Girl comes out on 6/5.  I read an ARC back in April given to me my Karin Slaughter at the PLA conference.  I will have that review 1 week from today (6/5).  I predict it to be one of the hottest books of the summer.

What I'm Reading: Dark Places

In preparation for the release of Gillian Flynn's newest novel Gone Girl next week, I saved my review of  her second novel Dark Places for today.  Also, this month, there was this news about the movie version of Dark Places.

Dark Places is like Flynn's first novel, Sharp Objects [use link for my review] in that they are both about family secrets and the way the past haunts the present.

Here, Libby Day is in her 30s, living in Kansas City and not doing too well.  Not that we can blame her.  Back when she was little, her Mom and 2 sisters were murdered in their isolated Kansas home and her older brother is in jail on a life sentence, charged with the murder.  Her trust fund is just about out of money, and as a result of her past, Libby has never had a real job, has no friends, and no family left around to help her.

The story has 3 points of view.  Libby in the present as she is coming to terms with her past.  She is so desperate for cash that she takes a job working for an underground serial killers club to find out what really happened to her family for the money.  The other 2 points of view are in the past in the days leading up to the murder.  We see Libby's mom's and brother's perspectives. With date and time stamps, we feel the tension as the mom's money problems and the brother's problems with 2 girls lead to the disastrous and violent conclusion we know is coming.

The three stories alternate, build to a crescendo, until you can barely take the suspense, and then, in one last fit of bloody action and plot twists, it all resolves.

This is a perfect example of everything that is wonderful about psychological suspense: the tension, the unease, the creepiness.  Flynn  particularly excels at plot twists.  This novel is a great example.  While the stories are alternating, you think you have figured it out but in the end," the truth" is much more complicated than fiction.  Which is strange because this is fiction.  But that is why this novel is so great.  While the plot twists are convoluted, they are realistic, creating a conclusion which is not neatly tied up like most books out there today.  Everything that disappointed me about The Snowman by Jo Nesbo is not here in Dark Places.  

If you like Hollywood endings that are clear cut, with good guys winning and bad buys losing with no ambiguity, do not read Flynn.

Also, satisfying is the theme of family and everything people will do to protect their family that runs throughout all of the story lines here.  It is the driving force behind the motivations of the protagonists and the villains here.  It was obviously done on purpose by Flynn, but does not feel forced. It enhanced my reading experience.  I appreciated the effort.

Other appeals here are the wonderful sense of place (Kansas City and rural Kansas), the well rounded secondary characters, and the cinematic descriptions.  Also, anyone interested in groups who get obsessed with true crime stories and fighting for the wrongly convicted will enjoy this novel.

This is a novel that needs to be experienced.  It is creepy and uneasy, with 3 extremely flawed narrators, who despite their HUGE flaws, are all sympathetic in some way.  Flynn has crafted a dark but realistic tale.  She is a really nice woman with quite a twisted mind.  I love it.  It makes me feel like I am not the only nice girl with the twisted mind out there declaring it publicly.

Three Words That Describe This Book: multiple POVs, darkly twisted story line, family secrets


Readalikes: If you use NoveList to search author readalikes to Flynn you will see 2 suggestions by me.  First, Tana French: "Both French and Flynn write dark, literary suspense stories in which extremely flawed narrators draw the reader into an emotionally charged story. Their protagonists also tend to be intimately involved with the crimes they are investigating. They create unsettling and disturbing tales filled with psychological twists and turns."  As a side note, both Flynn and French also use merging of past and present story lines to both enhance the story and increase the suspense.

Second Peter Abrahams: "Flynn and Abrahams excel at placing flawed protagonists into what the reader knows is a bad situation. Readers are held in uneasy suspense for the duration as they watch things go from bad to worse, loving ever nail biting minute."


Other authors who like Flynn create psychological suspense stories which have uneasy atmospheres, chills, creepy situations, and evil villains are: Chevy Stevens, S.J. Bolton, and Mo Hayder.

In general, I am seeing a trend with psychological suspense.  While it is still in the shadows, and not generally seen as its own genre, it is steadily growing.  More and more authors are writing these expertly creepy tales that straddle the line between suspense and horror.  People like Flynn and Hayder, in particular, are winning mainstream accolades and awards for books in which it is not clear if there is a true hero in the traditional sense. This is a big shift in popular suspense, and I am loving every minute of it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jump Into Summer: Memorial Day Weekend 2012

I took off work today to help out and an end of the year carnival at my kids' school, so I am feeling like today is the start of the holiday weekend. Not to mention that today's weather will be just about perfect--sunny and 77.

Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff of summer.  Although I am not going anywhere this weekend, I will be hosting a family BBQ one day and hanging in Chicago with some family who are visiting from out of town another day. [I love it when the New Yorkers come to Chicago and are so surprised by how vibrant and bustling our "little" city is.]  Which leave Monday for relaxing at home.

The result is that I am feeling the summer starting, and I don't feel much like working.  But, I will not leave you without anything today.  Start off your summer reading by checking out the ever growing compilation of summer reading lists at RA Online.  They are adding lists as soon as they appear, so bookmark it and check back frequently.  They hit the full range of options from Fiction to Nonfiction too.

I started my first summer read, Blackout, the last installment in Mira Grant's Newsflesh zombie-political thriller series which came out this week.  I have gobbled the first 200 pages already. Use the embedded links to read my reviews of the first 2 books in the series-- Feed and Deadline.  I have paired this fun fluff with my listening to 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, which is amazing but totally different.  I am having trouble choosing which to read when.  I am utterly absorbed by both.

Okay, this is already a longer post than I planned.  So I will end by telling everyone to have a great holiday weekend.  Read a book.  I will be back on Tuesday with some BIG, seriously HUGE, news for all of you who live within driving distance of the BPL.  I have been holding on to this news since early March and am dying to share it.  (Dying is a clue).

PS: Those who can't wait can cheat and click here to figure it out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Keeping Up With the Fans: Science Fiction on the Web

Here is the link to the article I wrote with the above title for this month's NoveList RA News.

I keep a link to the archive of past newsletters in the right gutter of the blog under the heading "Other Sites Featuring Me."

I have been averaging about 6 articles a year for this monthly newsletter.  It has great information for anyone who works with leisure readers and you do not need to be a subscriber to get this FREE resource.

Use this link to sign-up for yourself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BPL Book Discussion: Zeitoun

On Monday we all got together to discuss Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.

Here is the publishers plot summary:
The true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
 Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.

On to the discussion:
  • We had 15 people and 14 liked it, one was so-so on it, and no one disliked this book.  Interestingly, before reading it, many people said they were worried they wouldn't like it (too much Katrina lit), but were utterly captivated by reading it.  They cited the way it told the failures of Katrina from such a personal level.  One participant in particular was extremely moved by the book.
  • We all enjoyed how Eggers told the story.  First, he keeps himself out of the story and lets Kathy and Zeitoun tell their story.  We start a few days before the storm to get into the rhythm of their family before the storm hits.  He developed a connection with them.  Here are a few more thoughts about the style and structure of the novel:
    • The flashbacks to Kathy and Zeitoun's life earlier in their marriage and their childhoods came and went smoothly.  These passages added so much to our understanding of who they were as people, yet these flashbacks were not intrusive or confusing.  Someone said "he was weaving the past into the story." In particular the stories of Zeitoun's swimming champion brother and the tale of Kathy and Zeitoun's walk on the beach to touch a rock were singled out.
    • Everyone appreciated how their were many characters, but Eggers clearly laid them all out and there was never a question of who everyone was.
    • We also enjoyed how fair Eggers was.  He saw problems on both sides.  He presented things Zeitoun himself did wrong.  He was fair to the National Guard who really had no idea what they were supposed to be doing.  He was also critical of the response.  All sides were represented here.  Eggers presented the vast grey area of the Katrina response very well.
    • We all thought Eggers technique of having the reader see people with guns come for Zeitoun and then switching to Kathy's pov for dozens of pages as she tries to figure out what happened to Zeitoun was brilliant.  We are panicking with her. It improved the reading experience.
    • One participant liked how the book was structured as 2 stories: the Katrina story and the story of the family.
    • Eggers made us so frustrated that someone said she wanted to throw her book and "shake someone." This was good, we agreed.  Eggers was able to elicit in us a tiny bit of the frustration the Zeitouns felt.  Amazing job.  And he did it with clear construction and simple narrative.  We all agreed he wrote this book with great care and has amazing skills as a writer.
  • One of the things this book did for us was to make many of us question our own prejudice of Muslims.  I want to thank the group for being honest about this touchy issues.  It was a moving part of the discussion.  Here are some comments and thoughts:
    • We were petrified by the injustice and  how unfairly Zeitoun was treated
    • The Katrina stuff was bad, but we also knew that.  It was the poor treatment of them because of their religion which was horrifying.
    • Many of us admitted that when we see a woman wearing the veil, we immediately assume she is subjugated.  Kathy proved that strong women who are equal partners in marriage and business with their husbands can wear the veil for their own personal reasons.  To see Kathy discuss this, click here.
    • Many people enjoyed reading the Qur'an passages.  They were struck by how much they learned about Islam as a religion in this book.  Specifically it was cited how similar Islam and Christianity are.  For many participants, this was new information.
    • As one person said, "Just like with any group, there are good Muslims and bad Muslims.  This book showed us the loving side of Islam."
  • The Zeitoun family was discussed:
    • What an amazing family. We all were glad they kept the children out of the story for the most part.  This was an intrusive story; one that Zeitoun and Kathy chose to share to help others, but the kids have been through enough.  We are glad they were peripheral to the story. But we are also so sad about their pain and stress.
    • Is this a typical American family? 1/2 white and 1/2 Syrian, the children loved rRide and Prejudice.  We see them as unusual as the story begins, but by the end they seem very "typical"--business owners, good parents, strong community ties. We also noted how in the news last week, it was announced that in 2011, for the first time, more minority babies were born in America than white babies.  So, they are average.
    • What a strong marriage. They have such love for each other.
    • The contrast between Kathy's family in America who has never gotten used to her conversion to Islam versus Zeitoun's loving, accepting, and educated family.  Even though Kathy converted way before she met Zeitoun, her family is constantly telling her to "be herself" when he is not around.  They even feed her pork.  How rude!
    • Speaking of family.  There is a lot of talk in the book about how stable and loving the Zeitoun family back in Syria is.  When Kathy thinks Zeitoun is dead, she considers moving the family there.  But fast forward to today and all of the killing, unrest, and human rights problems in Syria right now.  It made me even sadder about what is going on there, but also thankful that the Zeitouns are in New Orleans.
  • A couple of points about the government response to Katrina
    • Kathy commented before the storm about what a bad idea it was to use the Superdome for evacuees.  It barely held in the last storm.  That was chillingly prescient of her.
    • As badly as Zeitoun was treated when he was arrested, he did remark on how at least he had electricity, running water, and 3 meals a day.  That was more than many people in the city had.
    • Read the end of the book to see the heart breakingly humorous story of their FEMA trailer.  What a mess!
    • We were struck by how little law enforcement Zeitoun saw in his flooded neighborhood.  There was almost no help.  If he did not have a canoe, with which he could quietly patrol the flooded streets, many of the people he saved would be dead now.
    • One person said, "Can you ever be ready for something this horrible?"
  • Post-Storm:
    • We talked about Kathy's apparent PTSD and commented on how much harder the after math of the storm was on her than on Zeitoun.  We speculated a bit about this.  Since he went through it all, once the ordeal was done, he moved on easier.  It is harder for Kathy to let go because she experienced it all from afar.  She has more to work through.
    •  Zeitoun has thrown himself into rebuilding the city in the aftermath.  Might that be a kind of PTSD too, someone speculated.  Overworking.  He eats less and works more.  We speculated that as long as he keeps moving he doesn't have to think about what happened to him.
    • "Rebuilding is an act of faith" someone said.  I liked that.
    • Another said, his work rebuilding the city is a statement to say "I belong here.  I am part of this community."
    • We also had a short conversation about what "we have learned" from Katrina.  Will the next response to something like this be better? We thought so, but were not convinced.
  • Finally, when asked to give me words that describe this book, here is what I got back from the group:
    • courageous
    • enlightening
    • hopeful
    • inspiring
    • disturbing
    • truth-telling
    • scared
    • uncertainty
    • cruelty
    • faith
    • leadership
    • ignorance
    • family
    • love
    • called by god
Readalikes: Here are some of my suggestions of books that are similar for different reasons.

First, Dave Eggers' memoir of how he lost his parents, became the guardian of his little brother, and was forced to finally become a grown up, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, gives you insight into Eggers motivations.  He is is drawn to other stories of family and hope amidst tragedy.

Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm is an excellent nonfiction work about the huge hurricane that hit and destroyed Galveston, Texas in 1900.  This event led to the creation of the National Weather Service.  I suggest this book to readers all of the time.  In a similar vein the fabulous David McCullough also wrote, The Johnstown Flood: The Incredible Story Behind One of the Most Devastating Natural Disasters American Has Ever Known. This is another well written and compelling story about a natural disaster.

For books specifically about Katrina from the more personal standpoint I would try the graphic novel, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld.  I had this to say about it on the Browsers Corner:
Neufeld reports on the effects of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in detail as he follows six residents of New Orleans from a few days before the storm and through its horrific aftermath.  This graphic novel began as an Internet comic. Neufeld’s powerful drawings combined with the true stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances makes for a compelling read.
For those who want to see more about all the failures during Katrina, try Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne.  Horne, a local reporter looks at the personal stories behind the flood as well as examines the systematic government failures.


The National Book Award winning Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is a moving novel about 2 abandoned children struggling to survive in the wake of Katrina. It packs a similar emotional punch as Zeitoun.

Click here to see the work of the Voice of Witness project for which the Zeitoun's story was first collected. Their mission is to illuminate human rights crises through oral history.

In terms of books about the effects of 9/11 on the Muslim community in America, NoveList suggested America's Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the War on Terror.

For those looking for a story about Islam and family struggles, I would suggest 2 books I have personally read and found very enlightening: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan.  Use the links for more of my thoughts.

I am going to force myself to stop.  I could keep going though.  This book is written simply, but the ideas and issues it brings up can take you many places.

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.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nancy Pearl Unveils Her Summer Reads Picks

This morning Nancy Pearl was on Morning Edition with her suggestion for summer reading.  Click through to read or listen.

Monday Discussion: Do You Read Long Series Before They Are Finished?

Today's Monday Discussion is not original.  I have blatantly stolen it from Book Riot.  But there is also a shorter summary of it from one of the Book Riot contributors here.  Excerpted from that post:
"The No. 1 reason why people won’t read The Song of Ice and Fire series is not because they’re not interested in fantasy novels (which you might expect would be the case). And it’s not because the books are too long, or violent, or offensive to their delicate sensibilities regarding sex. Nope. The No. 1 reason is that folks don’t want to be left hanging, waiting until 2020 (or whenever) for the notoriously slow George R. R. Martin to finish his series. Readers are friggin’ impatient — and rightly so!
We hate waiting for books, almost than we hate waiting for anything else in the world. And I’m with you — for my entire reading life, I’ve had the same policy: Must wait until finished in order to begin."
Use the above links to see what others had to say.  There are quite a few comments.  But let's talk about it amongst ourselves today.

The example used most frequently is the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.  Since Martin takes a long time to write each book and the level of detail is so high, many people are waiting until the series is done to read it all at once.  Personally, I am just forgoing the books and watching the TV show.

I tend not to think about whether or not a series is done before I read it.  I read the Harry Potter books as they came out (I would even go to Costco on release day to buy the newest one) and I read The Passage in 2010 and am still waiting for the next book.

I guess for me, if I want to read a book right away, I will.  If there is a long time in between books, like my wait with The Passage, I will use GoodReads, Amazon, or my own notes to catch myself up on the details.

Although thinking about it a bit more critically, there are a few series I read less frequently and parse them out so that I always have a back up book to read.  A good example of this is the Louise Penny Gamache Mysteries.  I have only read the first 2, but it is not because I am waiting for the series to end, rather, I like having the series there with more books that are new to me.  It is like money in my pocket; when I can find nothing else, I have a book that will work no questions asked.

So what about you. For today' Monday Discussion, when it comes to a really big, intense series, do you wait until the author is done so that you can read it all in one gulp?

For past Monday Discussions, click here.




Friday, May 18, 2012

Audiobooks: Narrator-Author Teams

Readers of this blog know that I enjoy audiobooks.  If that is news to you, you can use this link to catch up.

One of the things I most enjoy is following a series on audio. Well, let me clarify, I enjoy that if the narrator is good and does not change.  For example, for me Simon Vance is Mikhail Blomkvist in the Stieg Larsson Millenium Trilogy.  Vance reads the entire series, every characater, and he does it very well, but in my mind he is Blomkvist.  And he always will be.


Even though I greatly enjoy following a good narrator through a series, I never gave much thought to what the authors thought about it.  I guess I should have.  They have even more invested in these heroes than I do (although, when lost in a great read, I cannot imagine anyone caring more about that book than me at that very moment).

As part of Booklist's ongoing coverage of Mystery Month, the Audiobooker looked in to this very issue. In a 2 part series entitled, Partners in Crime, she looked at 2 very successful narrator/author teams and asked them about their partnerships and how the audio enhances the author's work.  The introductions to each post are included below with links.


Charlaine Harris Johanna Parker: an audiobook author/narrator pair extraordinaire. It’s no mystery why audiobook series have such passionate followers – the Sookie Stackhouse audios are a prime example of the connection between the reader’s voice and the continuing characters. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Parker about her voicing of the supernatural Southern Vampire mysteries, a perfect tie-in to Booklist’sMystery Month.
     Click here to read the interview.

Author Lee Child & narrator Dick Hill talk about the Jack Reacher series – such a perfect partnership that their audiobook producer calls them “Team Reacher.” I spoke with the two for my “Voices in My Head” Mystery Month column in Booklist, but couldn’t fit their entire conversation into the  page space. The conversation was so great, I wanted to share the complete interview for rabid fans of Childs’ high-octane thrillers.
     Click here to read the interview.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction Finalists

Back in March I posted this big news:
...RUSA and Booklist announced that they will be using the RUSA Reading List winners for adult genre fiction and the Booklist 50 Editor's Choice titles as finalist lists for a brand new award for Adult Fiction.  Nancy Pearl has agreed to be the Chairperson of the inaugural award committee. The ALA and the Carniegie Corporation are sponsoring this award.
Well, today those finalists have been announced, and Karen Russell is on a tear this week. She should play the lottery.  Here is the official announcement:

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction 2012 Finalists:


Russell Banks. Lost Memory of Skin,
published by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
An intelligent and fearlessly sympathetic portrait of a group of society’s outsiders—sex offenders—that illuminates the moral complexities at the heart of our justice system.

Anne Enright. The Forgotten Waltz,
published by W. W. Norton & Company
The vicissitudes of extramarital love and the obstructions to its smooth flow—including spouses, children, and the necessary secrecy surrounding an affair—are charted in sharp yet supple prose.

Karen Russell. Swamplandia!,
published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
This dazzlingly inventive first novel introduces 12-year-old gator-wrestling Ava Bigtree and her eccentric family, whose lives (and the Florida theme park they run) straddle the boundaries between the real and the surreal.

Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction 2012 Finalists:


James Gleick. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood,
published by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
A comprehensive study describing the melodious interplay between science and literature documents the transmission of human knowledge from talking drums to the Internet.

Manning Marable. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,
published by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA)
This definitive work on the life of the Malcolm X corrects previous misconceptions and offers new information about the charismatic leader’s life and death during the turbulent years of the civil rights era.

Robert Massie. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman,
published by Random House, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group
A compulsively readable biography of the fascinating woman who, through a combination of luck, personality, and a fine mind, rose from her birth as a minor German princess to become the Empress of all the Russias.

The winners will be announced at the ALA Annual Conference.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Karen Russell Wins the Young Lions Award

As I read here as well as other places:
The New York Public Library revealed that Karen Russell is the winner of the 2012 Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut novel,Swamplandia! The award includes a $10,000.
This award recognizes an American writer 35-years-old or younger for publishing a novel or a short story collection. Russell... has published a novel and a short story collection (St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves).
Readers of this blog know how much I loved Swamplandia!  If you can't recall, here is a link to all the love.

While You Wait...

Today at work I am focusing on my Friends of the Library Duties and will not have a post until tonight.  But while you wait, why not amuse yourself over on Gnooks.

Type the name of your favorite author into the literature map and see what you get. Please note, this is a computer generated suggestion engine; it is no match for the super hero also known as you local public librarian (especially super if you come to the BPL RA desk).  The results can range from spot on to absolutely ridiculous, with all options in between included.  But no matter its accuracy, I guarantee a fun time.

Here is the map for one of my favorites, Michael Chabon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Arty Fiction

Later today, my husband and I are going to our son's first grade class room for art appreciation.  We are going to teach the kids about Norman Rockwell (pre-chosen topic).  So I have had artists on the brain.

It got me thinking about all of the great novels which feature art and artists prominently.  Two of the most obvious are the literary and often historical novels of Tracy Chevalier and Susan Vreeland.  Both women tell stories about artists, the creation of art, and how art affects people generally from the female perspective.

But there are also men out there who regularly incorporate art into their stories.  Take bestseller espionage thriller writer Daniel Silva.  His hero, Gabriel Allon is a Mossad agent and art restorer.  These action packed spy novels are filled with danger, terrorists, and lots of details about art.

Here are a few art focused titles by other authors that I would highly suggest:

  • The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte: this novel has 2 story lines, both revolving around the aforementioned panel, one in the present and one in the past.  Expect romance, intrigue and murder.
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo features an artist.  Read more here.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon is one of my favorite books ever and it is about comics; therefore it is all about art, artists, and the creative process.  But it is also about mid-20th Century America.
  • Nora Roberts is an amazing storyteller.  Look, I don't like Romance much and even I can admit that that woman can tell a great story.  I have men and women coming in to read her books.  One of the reasons Roberts is so popular is the details she adds to her stpries.  It is not uncommon for either her hero or heroine to be involved in an art form.  A good example is Chesapeake Blue.
  • We read The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama in book club last year.  The narrator is a young painter who encounters a Japanese gardener whose work with plants is also a form of art.  This is a novel which has stayed with me, and I often find myself thinking about it 13 months later.
This is just a sampling of the numerous offering out there.  Art and artists have obviously been quite an inspiration to their prose creating cousins the fiction writers.  For more ideas, check out this list from 2008 compiled by the contributors to Fiction-L a RA list serv.  Feel free to leave your own suggestion in the comments.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Most Read Books in the World

Thanks to Flavorwire, I saw this and just had to pass it on.  It is so interesting to see it in visual form.  Also, I was surprised that 6 of the top 10 were fiction.


Monday Discussion: Mothers in Fiction

I know I am a day late here, but after spending yesterday celebrating Mother's Day with my kids and mother-in-law, it got me to thinking about making list of our favorite fictional mothers.

Now, you can share the mother's you have admired or despised.  Over on her blog, At the Ref Desk, Verna in our Reference Department made this fun list of the Worst Mothers in Literature.  I guess I am just looking for you to give me the mothers from literature who pop into your head right away.

I'll go first.  I will offer a mother good and a mother bad.

For a bad mother try Chicago author Gillian Flynn's debut novel Sharp Objects.  I bring this us because there is a truly terrible mother in this novel, but also, Flynn will be visiting the BPL this summer.  I will have details very soon.

For a good example of a mother I like, try the Bookmobile Mysteries by Ian Sansom.  You can click here for my reviews.  The main character's mother is both funny and truly loving.

I hope you Moms out there enjoyed your day yesterday.  I know I had a wonderful day.

Now let me know some memorable moms you have read about.

Click here for past Monday Discussions

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Thoughts on the Fifty Shades of Grey Controversy

So now that Fifty Shades of Grey is a huge hit, libraries are starting to be asked to pull the book from their shelves because of how racy it is.  Click here for an update on the issue.

Yesterday, as a staff we had a brief discussion about the entire issue.  First, I want to say that thankfully, we have little to no chance of someone in Berwyn asking us to pull the book.  We live in a fairly liberal community, right next to a fairly liberal major city (Chicago), and there are over 1,250 holds (and growing) on this title in our immediate system.  By the way, those are numbers James Patterson wishes he had (he is a regular 500+ holds author).

But, not everyone is as lucky as us on this front.  So here are some of the larger issues revolving around the controversy as I see them, with comments. Warning: I have strong opinions on this issue, but hey, it's my blog.

First, I should be very clear that we did not buy Fifty Shades of Grey at first.  Why?  It got terrible professional reviews.  Our policy states that we only buy well reviewed materials which fit our patrons' reading preferences.  Now, steamy romance does fit in with our collection and its readers, but only well reviewed ones.

However, we also have a collection development policy which states that we buy #1 best sellers.  So as soon as the novel hit the top of the charts, we ordered 3 copies.

I do not know of a public library which does not buy huge, runaway best sellers as a rule.  But I do know many libraries were struggling with this.  When I was in KC last month, multiple librarians asked me for help in convincing their Directors to let them by Fifty Shades of Grey.  My first response was to ask if they bought #1 best sellers.  They all said, "yes," but that their Directors were afraid of possible challenges.

This makes me livid since it is self censorship.  My advice to them, and to you if you are having this problem right now, is to make up a flier that says, "Dear [insert library name here], Please buy Fifty Shades of Grey so I can read it.  Thank you.  [signature here].  Make 100 copies and hand it to each and every patron who asks for the book.  Have them sign it and hand these in to the Director.

Normally, if a challenge comes, our first defense as librarians is the positive review.  But since this novel is lacking those, you can defend your inclusion of this erotic novel in your collection with a paper trail of requests.

Okay, next issue.  The book has a lot of graphic sex involving bondage for pleasure.  The last time we saw a bestselling phenomenon which was blatantly about graphic depictions of sex it was when Madonna's nonfiction coffee table book Sex came out.  Here, very few libraries purchased it, and those that did had strict rules on borrowing it.  However, here the issue was mostly the photographs. With Fifty Shades of Grey there are no photographs.

But let's look at really how steamy this book is.  I have not read the entire thing yet (I am letting the patrons have it first), but I have read excerpts.  First of all, as our fearless leader Kathy told me, it is not any more racy than the vast majority of our Urban Fiction collection. Kathy should know, she is in charge of that collection.  Seriously people, have you read Zane?  And she is the most mainstream of that group.  Those books fly off the shelves.  Teenagers go through them like candy, and no one says a thing.

Let's get even more mainstream than Zane though. Here are some fairly steamy authors for whom we automatically buy every single book they release, no reviews needed:
And this is not even taking into consideration the hundreds of Harlequin paperback series books we have that are even steamier.  And you can buy those in the grovery store!

But even so.  Some people are arguing that it is the bondage angle that is making people uncomfortable.  Here I say all you have to do is look to another bestselling hit, Stieg Larsson's The Millennium Trilogy which has a very large subplot involving Lizbeth being raped by her guardian and her then exacting revenge on him later.  Both graphic scenes involve sex and bondage [I have read them].  And there bondage is used for violence.  In Fifty Shades of Grey it is for pleasure.  Which is worse?  Obviously violence, yet no one even hinted at removing the Larsson books from libraries.

I think the main problem here is that since Fifty Shades of Grey has become such a huge hit, many people who do not normally read romance are being introduced to the genre through this fairly racy novel.  They are a bit shocked by what they got from the library, but do not understand that there is quite a bit of fiction out there like this.  So, they get their panties in a bunch [pun intended], are embarrassed that they read it, and start picking on the library about it.

Here's my opinion.  People, read what you want.  Let others read what they want.  And if a book is popular enough, we will have it at the library so that people have access to it, no matter what it is about.  We don't care; we just want people to have access to the books they want to read.  So, why should you care?  We are buying for the entire community, not just one angry person.  Mind your own business. 

My final comments are for those libraries out there who are pulling the book.  You are an embarrassment.  Stick to your guns people.  If you bought the book, you had your reasons.  Don't pull it off the shelf.  Stand up for yourselves.  If you don't have enough respect for yourself to do it on your own, use the arguments in my post to help you. And if you are someone who is pulling the book, you might as well quit.  You are not upholding your end of the bargain as a public librarian anymore.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Does Hardboiled Really Mean?

Authors, publishers, and librarians throw around terms like hardboiled and noir with great frequency when they are breaking down mysteries into smaller, subgenres.  Unlike terms like cozy which quite clearly conjure up a picture of what one can expect from a mystery with that designation (calm, tea and coookies, curling up with a good book), hardboiled is less clear (does the detective has a harden yellow center?).

And then you add noir into the mix, and it gets very confusing.

But never fear, help is a click away.  Over on Critical Element, the hardboiled mystery writer Max Allan Collins, has this great essay explaining it all quite clearly.

Writers Ponder America and Its Role in Global Political Culture

Back on April 29th, The New York Times published a special op-ed section with this intro:
From April 30 to May 6, 100 writers from 25 countries will be in New York for a festival sponsored by the PEN American Center.
As part of the festival, A. O. Scott, a critic for The New York Times, will talk with the writers Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood and E. L. Doctorow at a Times Talk event on May 2, co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Canada in New York.
We asked those three writers — Ms. Atwood from Canada, Mr. Amis from Britain and Mr. Doctorow from the United States — to consider the question of America and its role in global political culture. Here are their answers.
I admire these three authors for their fiction, but I wasn't so sure about what they would have to say about this issue.  I think their thoughts are worth passing on.  I did not notice these essays linked anywhere else, so I am passing them on:
Personally, I am partial to Ms. Atwood's essay mostly because she said in order to understand America you need to read Hawthorne and Melville (my top 2 favorite authors ever!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

SF and Fantasy News: May Books and Ender's Game news

While I am bombarded with previews for literary fiction, mysteries, suspense, and thrillers from the major publishers, I rarely know about science fiction and fantasy books before they come out.

Thankfully, io9 runs a regular column called, Bookself Injection, in which they offer an annotated list of the speculative fiction coming down the pike each month.

Here's a link to the May round up.\

In other Geek-tastic news, the Ender's Game book to movie news is heating up.  The producers have started a blog, and Card will be releasing a prequel to the novel this summer.  Read all about it on Galley Cat here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP Maurice Sendak

I have been away from my computer all day, but with an hour commute to my presentation today, I was lucky enough to get to hear Fresh Air's tribute to Maurice Sendak.

Quite often Terry Gross annoys me, but not when she would talk to Sendak.  He had an obvious affection for her and it came through in the many times they spoke.

Today, Fresh Air ran excerpts from many of these interviews ranging over decades.

A better tribute you will not see or hear.  Click here for access.

2 New Student Reading Maps

More student work to showcase.  Today I have 2 very good reading maps on 2 completely different books.

Also, don't forget, I have a page on Reading Maps which contains a link to the Reading Maps of the BPL and an archive of student work. You can use this link or look for it in the right hand gutter of this blog.

Also, Christi and I just turned in a joint article explaining in 8 simple steps how to make your own reading map.  Look for that from NoveList RA News in July. Now you have no excuse not to do your own!

RA for All Road Show: Horror in Mundelein

In case you haven't noticed, my new book is out.  I have been busy making the rounds to promote it.

Today, I am stopping in at the Fremont Public Library District to present the 3 hour version on the book in a program I call "Thrills and Chills @ Your Library: How to Help Your Scariest Patrons."

Use this link to access all of the handouts.  Also, for you RA for All readers, don't forget about all the thrills and chills awaiting you on RA for All: Horror.

Remember, if you want me to come and get your staff ready for Halloween, I am currently booking for September appearances on a first come first serve basis.  Contact me for more info.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Discussion: Children's Book Week

It is Children's Book Week and although I work with adults, I also understand how important it is to get kids excited about books and reading.

I volunteer in my kids' elementary school library 2x a month, and I never tire of helping those kids find their "fun" books.  In fact, it is great RA training.  As I tell my students, if you can get a kid to tell you about a book they liked, you can get even the  most stubborn adult to work with you.  I am humbled each time I work in the school library.  I have to work hard to get the RA conversation even started, let alone convince them to take the book I am book talking to them.  Kids will say "no" to a book after your first sentence.  It really helps you to hone your book talking skills.

I will be there tomorrow morning, handing out Children's Book Week bookmarks and helping those kids find something "fun" to read.

Captain Hook, Max, and Fancy Nancy
In honor of Children's Book Week, a few staff members at the BPL are dressing up as their favorite children's book characters.  For example, Jose is an adorable Max from Where the Wild Things Are; definitely one of my favorite books when I was a kid.  We also have this fun children's book quiz going on all week.

To put us all in the Children's Book Week spirit, for Today's Monday Discussion, I want to know your favorite children's books.

I'll go first.  I loved Shel Silverstein as a kid.  Heck, I still do. But, today I wanted to point out a few books that I read to my kids and now buy for all the new parents I know.  Here is a small list of the childrens' books I have learned to love as a parent.
  • The Red Lemon by Bob Staake: such a great message and the rhymes written as an homage to Dr. Seuss makes it fun to read aloud.
  • Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox: A great book for young children.  A more perfect book to read right from birth through age 3 I have had yet to find.  I think I could still recite it by heart if pressed to do so.
  • Any Harold and the Purple Crayon books: old I know, but I was not as in to them when I was a kid.
  • Any Mo Willems book, but I am especially fond of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster because it is so fun to read out loud.  A close second is Today I Will Fly! only because I am an eternal optimist like Piggie, and it is nice to see his dreams of the impossible coming true.
I am going to stop myself, or I will keep going.

Now it is your turn to share your favorite childrens' book old or new.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.