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, January 31, 2013

No Post Today

Todays post has been derailed due to some work issues.  I will be back tomorrow with today's post (which is 75% done right now) and hopefully the planned Friday post too. The work issues, however, will take longer than that to be sorted out I am afraid.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Endurance of Pride & Prejudice



You might have seen other posts and news articles out there this week marking the 200th Anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Now I am not a huge fan of Austen's writing style myself, but the story she created with Pride and Prejudice is remarkable.  She was able to create a mash up of social commentary and romance in a way that still resonates with readers today.

There is an entire industry of Jane Austen fan fiction.  Use this link to access the GoodReads main page for all things tagged and shelved as "Austen Inspired;" you could spend hours there.

This week, the USA Today's Book Section had this article about why people still love the novel. It really is an excellent analysis.  It is worth a look even if you don't think you like P and P because it reminds us that it has influenced so much in our lives. [The Kardashians as the modern day Bennet sisters?]

As I mentioned above, while I do not consider myself a fan of the novel, I love the story.  In fact, over the last few months, I have been obsessively watching the You Tube Channel called, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Yes, as in Elizabeth Bennet.  It is a modern retelling of P and P in video diary form.  Click here to access the channel.

These videos retell the entire novel set in present day California.  Lizzie is a graduate student, her older sister Jane is a sensitive young woman working in the fashion industry, and little sister Lydia is a party girl.  All the characters are there, and all of the places; although Pemberley is no longer an estate it is a tech company.  And the story is told over multiple media platforms.

Even though I know what is going to happen, I love watching these videos.  Following the story into other charcaters' channels and websites increases my enjoyment too.  I feel like secondary characters, such as Lydia, are allowed to stretch their wings and grow in ways the novel never allowed for.  The videos also capture the social commentary and universal human nature issues that Austen did such a great job bringing to light 200 years ago.

But you can also enjoy the Lizzie Bennet Diaries without any knowledge of the source material.  I have embedded the first episode at the end of this post, but I apologize in advance if it sucks you in as it did for me.  At least I started when there were only 25 episodes already out.  Now it is in the 80s!

So what about you?  Does P and P have any relevance in your life today?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ALA Midwinter ADULT Award Winners

Yes, I know everyone is VERY excited about the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards all announced yesterday.  I like them too, but not for who wins.  Rather, I get very excited that these are the only librarian generated awards lists that get the entire publishing world and even the regular person on the street excited about books awards.  I am proud of my profession for being such an important part of the general pop culture conversation, at least for a few days each year.

However, those of us who work with adult readers also had much to be excited about yesterday, and it makes me sad that this news always gets lost in the shuffle. But, since I have a platform to discuss it, I can at least do something about it.

RUSA, the Reference Users Service Division of the ALA, announced many of their best lists. Here are the links for the Listen List (best audio book narration with annotations and readalikes!) and the Notable Books List (fiction and nonfiction).

But my favorite list by far is the Reading List.  Here is the description of this honor:
The Reading List annually recognizes the best books in eight genres: adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. This year’s list includes novels that will please die-hard fans, as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction. Librarians can use the lists as resources for reader recommendations and collection development at their own libraries, or to build their personal to-be-read lists.
The "pleasures of genre fiction," are too often forgotten by "best lists."  But we librarians know that those genre titles are what the vast majority of our readers are craving.  The Reading List is our only guidance to a general consensus of "the best" of all genres in one place, picked by our colleagues.

And this award list is EVEN BETTER because the committee includes the winner and provides backlist readalikes for that title as well as the standard runner-up titles. As a result for each genre, you get 8 reading options!!

This is an awards list you could use with a wide range of patrons; it is also a great collection development tool.  Go check your catalog records to make sure you have the winner and the short-list titles.  I do hope though that you have at least one copy of Gone Girl already.

See for yourself.  I have included the entire list below.  You can also access the press release of the 2013 winners here or past year's lists here. For any of the other awards mention in this post, go back and use the embedded links above.

ADRENALINE
“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn (Crown, 9780307588364)
It’s her fifth wedding anniversary: where’s Amy? Assumptions are dangerous in this chilling psychological thriller. The dark and twisty plot, unbearable levels of tension, and merciless pacing will rivet readers.
Read-alikes
“The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith
“Before I Go to Sleep” by SJ Watson
“Defending Jacob” by William Landay

Short List
“The Fear Artist” by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Crime, 9781616951122)
“Into The Darkest Corner” by Elizabeth Haynes (HarperCollins, 9780062197252)
“The Survivor” by Gregg Hurwitz (St. Martin’s Press, 9780312625511)
“The Inquisitor” by Mark Allen Smith (Henry Holt, 9780805094268)

FANTASY
“The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley (Little, Brown, 9780316098793)
When Myfanwy wakes up with no memory, surrounded by corpses, she must immediately impersonate herself in order to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of a secret supernatural intelligence agency. This offbeat debut combines the fast pacing and suspense of a thriller with the gritty, detailed world-building of urban fantasy.
Read-alikes
“The Demi-Monde: Winter” by Rod Rees
“The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde
“The Domino Men” by Jonathan Barnes

Short List
“The Troupe” by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit, 9780316187527)
“The Steel Seraglio” by by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey (ChiZine, 9781926851532)
“The Killing Moon” by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit, 9780316187282)
“Alif the Unseen” by G. Willow Wilson (Grove, 9780802120205)

HISTORICAL FICTION
“Bring Up the Bodies” by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, 9780805090031)
Ambitious royal advisor Thomas Cromwell is at the pinnacle of his power and uses it to subtly engineer the downfall of his enemies, including the Queen, Anne Boleyn, and her inner circle. This intricately plotted character study presents a fresh perspective on the ever popular Tudor Court.
Read-alikes
“Mary, the Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley” by Alison Weir
“A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt
“I, Claudius” by Robert Graves

Short List
“Sarah Thornhill” by Kate Grenville (Grove, 9780802120243)
“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller (Ecco, 9780062060617)
“Sutton” by J.R.Moehringer (Hyperion, 9781401323141)
“The Cove” by Ron Rash (Ecco, 9780061804199)

HORROR
“The Ritual” by Adam Nevill (St. Martin’s, 9780312641849)
In the remote forests of Sweden, the friendship between four men disintegrates when they wander off the hiking trail and find themselves stalked by an unseen and increasingly violent menace. “Blair Witch” meets black metal in this dark and suspenseful horror novel.
Read-alikes
“The Ruins” by Scott Spencer
“Deliverance” by James Dickey
“Neverland” by Douglas Clegg

Short List
“Breed” by Chase Novak (Mullholland Books, 9780316198561)
“The Haunting of Maddy Clare” by Simone St. James (New American Library, 9780451235688)
“This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It” by David Wong (St. Martin’s Press, 9780312546342)
“The Return Man” by V. M. Zito (Orbit, 9780316218283)

MYSTERY
“The Gods of Gotham” by Lyndsay Faye (Putnam, 9780399158377)
The discovery of a mass grave of child prostitutes spurs “copper star” Timothy Wilde to hunt a killer through the seamy underbelly of 1840s New York City. Colorful period slang enlivens this carefully researched story about the dawn of modern policing.
Read-alikes
“The Yard” by Alex Grecian
“The Alienist” by Caleb Carr
“Gangs of New York” (film, Miramax, 2002)

Short List
“Don’t Ever Get Old” by Daniel Friedman (Putnam, 9780312606930)
“Trickster’s Point” by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books, 9781451645675)
“The Chalk Girl” by Carol O’Connell (Putnam, 9780399157745)
“The Beautiful Mystery” by Louise Penny (Minotaur, 9780312655464)

ROMANCE
“Firelight” by Kristen Callihan (Grand Central, 9781455508594)
Bartered as a bride to the masked nobleman Benjamin Archer, Miranda Ellis – a woman with a supernatural secret – becomes his only defender when he is accused of a series of murders. This is a dark and smoldering Victorian paranormal where love redeems two complex and damaged characters.
Read-alikes
“When Beauty Tamed” the Beast by Eloisa James
“Second Sight” by Amanda Quick
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Short List
“The Black Hawk” by Joanna Bourne (Berkley, 9780425244531)
“At Your Pleasure” by Meredith Duran (Pocket Star, 9781451606959)
“Lucky in Love” by Jill Shalvis (Forever, 9781455503728)
“A Lady Awakened” by Cecelia Grant (Bantam, 9780553593839)

SCIENCE FICTION
“Caliban’s War” by James S. A. Corey (Orbit, 9780316129060)
One wants control; one wants vindication; one wants his daughter back; and one wants revenge (and maybe a new suit). The shifting points of view of these four distinctive characters, an electrifying pace, and the threat of an evolving alien protomolecule propel readers through this grand space adventure.
Read-alikes
“Hellhole” by Brian Herbert and Keven J. Anderson
“Gardens of the Sun” by Paul McAuley
“The Ghost Brigades” by John Scalzi

Short List
“The Hydrogen Sonata” by Iain M. Banks (Orbit, 9780316212373)
“11/22/63” by Stephen King (Scribner, 9781451627282)
“After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall” by Nancy Kress (Tachyon, 9781616960650)
“Exogene” by T.C. McCarthy (Orbit, 9780316128155)

WOMEN’S FICTION
“The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns” by Margaret Dilloway (Putnam, 9780399157752)
Galilee Garner’s carefully managed routine of teaching, rose breeding, and kidney dialysis is disrupted when her teenage niece moves in. Readers will root for the growth of this prickly character as she discovers the importance of cultivating human connections.
Read-alikes
“Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout
“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
“As Good as it Gets” (film, Columbia Tristar, 1997)

Short List
“Wife 22” by Melanie Gideon (Ballantine, 9780345527950)
“A Grown Up Kind of Pretty” by Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central, 9780446582353)
“The Secret Keeper” by Kate Morton (Atria Books, 9781439152805)
“I’ve Got Your Number” by Sophie Kinsella (Dial Press, 9780385342063)

The winners were selected by the The Reading List Council: Megan McArdle, chair, Berkeley Public Library; Alicia Ahlvers, Kansas City Public Library; Stephanie Chase, Seattle Public Library; Craig Clark; Kathleen Collins, University of Washington; Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library; Gillian Speace, Novelist; Valerie Taylor, Great Falls Library; Kimberly Wells, Denton (Texas) Public Library; Jody Wurl, Hennepin County Library; and Michelle Young, Hawaii State Public Library System.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Discussion: Literary Sibilings

And so begins the week of Super Bowl hype.  This year we have the uniqueness of brothers on opposite sidelines each coaching their team.  This made me start thinking about siblings in literature.

There are many instances of creative siblings.  Along with the obvious Bronte sisters, I greatly enjoy the fiction of Jonthan Safran Foer and the nonfiction of his brother Joshua.  And although they write and direct movies, I absolutely love everything the Cohen brothers produce.

What about you?  For today's Monday discussion, think about creative siblings that you really enjoy and let me know.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Also, on a side note, the BPL book club is meeting later today; 1 week late due to no heat in the building last Monday.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Circulating Ideas Podcast Part 2 and Food Lit Reference Guide

Sorry for forgetting to post part 2 of Steve Thomas' Best of 2012 podcast.  Here is where I posted part 1 that featured me.

Here is part 2 that features my fellow ARRT Steering Committee member, Leah White.

While I am on the subject of ARRT Steering Committee members, I also wanted to point out Citizen Reader's Sarah Statz Cords) post about Steering Committee member Melissa Stoeger's new book Food Lit: A Reader's Guide to Epicurean Nonfiction. 

Melissa did a great job on this reference book and thank goodness because it is a book I have needed for years.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Graphic Novel Resources

As I have been preparing for the ARRT Genre Study, beginning today at 2, I have also been revamping my list of go-to graphic novel resources.  So today, I am going to share them here too.

Let me begin first with a clarification that I hinted at back on Tuesday. Graphic Novels are NOT a genre.  They are a format.  In fact, for the 6 scheduled meetings of the "genre study" we will be breaking down our in depth look at this format into genre blocks.  However, because this format is shelved together at most public libraries, readers often treat graphic novels in a similar fashion to a genre collection like mysteries.

I will have very brief reports on what happens at the 6 meetings throughout 2013, but I will not go into great detail because being in the genre study is a member benefit of being in ARRT.

The prep work I do however, is fair game for everyone out there.  So here is my go-to list of graphic novel Internet resources.  Please feel free to add your own in the comments.
Finally, do not forget to drop in at your closest comic book store and talk to them about trends, issues, hot titles, authors, and/or illustrators.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Brits on The Great American Novel

Readers of this blog know I love a good knock-out round of "best" books or authors. Along with my Death Brackets this past Fall, I have also been a long time proponent of The Morning News' Tournament of Books which runs each March.  You can click here to see the official preview with finalists for 2013.

So you can imagine my interest being piqued by this post on the Guardian's Books Blog-- a tourney which is "looking for the greatest American novelist of the last 100 years."  The link is to the first half of the first round.

I will keep you posted on this tourney as it goes on.  I am very interested to see the Brit pick of the best American novelist and the reasons why.  I feel like I am part of a pseudo-anthropological study.

I figured if I found it interesting, someone else out there might too.

Downton Abbey Readalikes

When there is a media sensation the readalikes requests start rolling in at the RA desk.  In the case of Downton Abbey, there already were many books to fit the craze in our collections as well as books already in the pipeline that simply needed a tweak in marketing to highlight their connection to the between the wars, English setting.

Now as Season 2 gets going, not only are there copy-cat books coming out, there is also a solid crop of good novels with appeal to fans of Downton Abbey coming soon.

Sarah Johnson, THE library expert on historical fiction (in many people's opinion, including mine) has multiple posts on her blog, Reading the Past with readalikes.  Click here to access both.

These are titles I would suggest adding to all larger popular fiction collections, and as many as you can afford for others. I mean, you know you have bought a bunch of 50 Shades readalike titles; this is of the same level of fan demand.

Downton Abbey is the most popular media event that is NOT based on a specific book already drawing in requests for readalikes.  I see readalike requests for the series that are book based or have spawned book of their own (like Castle), and I see requests for the books that popular movies are based on [thank goodness we already owned Silver Linings Playbook], but Downton Abbey is unique in that we are fielding multiple requests a week for readalikes for this TV show that has no literary version.

I can imagine we are not unique.  Use the link to help you match patrons with their next good read.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Thoughts

It has been a frustrating few days work wise.  Friday, I had grand plans to get a lot of work done and then the power went out in half of Berwyn.  I was only scheduled to work until 2:30, so I left.

Monday, although a holiday, was a work day at the library as well as the monthly date of our book club, but we are in a frigid snap here and the heat was not working well, so we had to close the building.  I was able to contact all but one of the book club ladies to tell them to come next week. That didn't help the fact that I had stayed up until after 1 am to finish the book the night before. I was a tad bit crabby about that.

Many were happy that they got a paid day off, and dispersed quickly, but I am frustrated.  I ended up being the last woman standing (besides the maintenance guy).  I still have a lot of work to do.  I did however get to teach intern Elizabeth a few things about clearing the building for an emergency closure.  She appreciated (dare I say relished) the opportunity.

Today was a scheduled day off for me since my kids had an in-service at school.  We were all going to see Life of Pi after lunch when my husband got off, so I figured I could get some work done in the AM, but no, my Internet at home has been wonky for a few days. I think it has to do with the single digit temperatures.

As I said frustrating.  No big problems, just lots of little annoying ones piling up.

But then, I was reading my RSS feeds on my phone (yeah 3G) and I saw this link to an article titled "Why Public Libraries Matter: And How They Can Do More." (Thanks RA Online)

It was the perfect article to shake me out of my funk. I am passing it on to you hoping that it helps you to realize what really matters about the great work we all do.

After I read it, the frustration lifted.  I feel energized, and see the good side of it all: the library is up and running, Life of Pi was a beautiful movie and my kids loved it, I am now ready a week in advance for book club, and on Thursday, ARRT begins its 1-year Graphic Novel genre study.

Speaking of that, I am assisting the leader, Annabelle from Skokie PL, and will have a full report on Friday.  Annabelle and I have wanted to do this for awhile and had to convince some of the other committee members that we could do a genre study on a format.  But more on the genre/format issue later.

If you want to follow along at home, we are doing benchmarks for this first meeting.  We all read (or re-read) Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman and The Watchmen by Alan Moore.

Tomorrow, it is back to normal.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Discussion: A Question About Not-Quite Fantasy

Last Monday, I hosted 25 librarians at the BPL for ARRT's Quarterly Book Discussion. I facilitated a discussion of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern wtih a group of people who are already book discussion leaders, and after the discussion we left time to discuss general issues and concerns regarding our individual discussion groups.

A few days later, Marlise from St. Charles Library sent me a question she forgot to ask (although we had touched on it a little).  I told her I would bring it up here on the Monday Discussion.

During the book discussion we talked about what genre The Night Circus belongs to.  Most libraries had the booked shelved with general fiction.  It does have large fantasy elements however.  So then someone asked is it Magical Realism then?  We decided as a group that the fantasy elements were too strong for it to be classified as magical realism, but they were too soft for a pure fantasy label.

Eventually, we left this string of the conversation dangling a bit and ended it by listing other books that fit this similar gray area.

Which leads me to Marlise.  She went home and thought about it some more and realized that for this type of book, she normally describes it as "fantastical" to patrons.  But she wanted to ask me (and others) what terms we use.

This is a great question because genre blending has gotten so out of control, that the genre words are often rendered meaningless to describe a book to a patron.

So what do I say. Here are words I have used to describe these books: "not quite fantasy," "fantasy-lite," "fantasy-esque."

What about you? How do you handle these popular "fantastical" titles. For today's Monday Discussion let me know what words or phrases you use.

On a side note, we have no heat at the BPL and are closed as of 10:30. 

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

SF Authors Share The Books They Wished They Had Written

I know I said I would have a review up today, and I still will, but this post on io9 was too good not to point out.

They asked a bunch of very popular and talented SF writers to name the books they wished they had written. The resulting list reads like a greatest hits of SF. But also, take a look at the authors surveyed.  These are names you should know right now.

It is worth a look for both SF fans and those of you looking to brush up on the genre.

UPDATE TO POST: I fixed the broken link, but the BPL lost power; in fact. a large portion of town did.  I will not get the review of This is How You Lose Her up today. It will be up early next week.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What I'm Reading: Beautiful Ruins

The first book I finished in 2013 was one of the consensus Best Books picks for 2012.  In fact, I had first heard about Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter at the PLA Conference back in March 2012, where I picked up an advanced reader copy.  Over Christmas break I grabbed that paperback ARC to take on the plane.


I was skeptical before beginning the novel since the sound bite description always begins with talking about the filming of Cleopatra starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.  Although I enjoyed the movie myself, I am not a huge fan of stories of celebrity couples.  But then I saw that Esquire named it their book of the year, and from years of reading my husband's issues of that magazine I know that they do not put up with wishy-washy; something I was worried this book might be. Their seal of approval pushed it to the top of the to-read list.

I am glad I read it.  Beautiful Ruins would not have made my best of 2012 list if I had finished it before the calendar flipped over, but it was a very satisfying and interesting read.  But more importantly, this is a book I can see myself handing out to a wide range of patrons for many years to come, mostly because it is not often that you find intricately plotted (yet very accessible), character driven literary fiction that has an overall upbeat tone.

Let me start with the basic plot and then go into the construction of the story because Walter’s novel is more about how he chose to reveal the story to us than it is about what happens.

The novel opens in a remote, Italian fishing village with the arrival of a beautiful American actress who has been diagnosed with stomach cancer.  It is the early 1960s and this actress was playing a supporting role in Cleopatra.  We see everything in 1960s Italy through the eyes of Pasquale, a young man who is running the only hotel.

There is another parallel storyline in the present which follows a young woman who is the assistant for a big time Hollywood producer, the same producer whose first job was working on Cleopatra.  This young woman is at a cross roads in her career as the story opens because her boss, the great Michael Deane, is no longer making important films as she was hoping he would when she took the job.  No, instead now her days are filled with bad reality TV and zombie flicks.

These two stories unfold in alternating sections.  We learn quickly however that the main tension of the novel is to find out what happened to the young American actress once she disappeared from Italy bqck in the 1960s.  And because the story lines alternate, we, the readers, often know more than the characters, which draws out the suspense and pushes the novel along.

Walter also uses different stylistic techniques to keep the story moving such as including a pitch presentation for a film version of the Donner party.  [It was a fun tangent to go on; it also helped to flesh out the character who wrote it.] There is also a first chapter of another key character's book included within the novel and chunks of a play.

But it is all leading toward the end of finding the actress and allowing all of the parties involved in her disappearance to come together again. Thus, themes of regret and redemption are huge here.  Many of the characters make bad choices, but they all get the chance to revisit those choices and try to make right on them.  Which is what I mean when I say the entire book has an upbeat tone.  Some characters meet a not so great end, but most get the chance to right old wrongs.

Speaking of characters, they are also key to whether or not you will enjoy the story.  Personally, I loved Pasquale.  He felt so very real to me, both in the story line where he is a young man, and later as he is older.  I also found the people of his town entertaining and amusing.

Not all of the characters are as well drawn as Pasquale, in my opinion (which is why the book was good, not great, for me), but it is the characters, their choices, and their reactions which drives the story here.  The “action” is in their interactions. Normally such a character driven story would be more methodically paced, but because of the stylistic choices I outlined above, Walter manages to keep the story moving at a fairly brisk pace.  I read most of it in 2 sittings, and during that final sitting, on the plane ride home, I was racing through to get to the end.

Another reasons readers may enjoy Beautiful Ruins is the setting. The small Italian port is gorgeous.  My time spent there was the best part of the story for me. We also get to see a little of the filming of Cleopatra and a small peek into Hollywood today too. 

Finally, the title.  Beautiful Ruins was taken from a quote in the New Yorker (listed at the beginning of the book) in which Richard Burton is described as a “beautiful ruin.” 

Three Words That Describe This Book: intricately plotted, character driven, upbeat


Readalikes: Beautiful Ruins is a novel that would appeal to different people for different reasons, so here is a long, conditional list of readalikes.

If you liked the Italian setting try The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon which is a novel about a couple reuniting after 40 years apart, in Italy, to reminisce about the summer they spent together in that country and the betrayal that tore them apart.

If you liked the Hollywood angle to the story try another critically acclaimed novel from 2012 that focuses on the golden-age of Hollywood, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub.

If you liked the music industry part and or the mix of styles in how the story is told and the episodic fashion A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is an excellent readalike option.

If you liked the upbeat, character driven story with a focus on love try One Day by David Nicholls.

If you liked the theme of unrequited love told in a critically acclaimed, literary fiction style try The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides or Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

If you want to read nonfiction about the tumultuous love between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, read Furious Love by Sam Kashner

Finally if you liked reading an intricately plotted literary novel, with an interesting style that has an overall sunny tone, well there are not many of those, but Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (reviewed by me, here) fits that bill nicely.  But read my review because Semple's book is more silly at times than Walter's.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Edgar Award Nominees and January's Crime Offerings

The Edgar Award nominations just came out.  These awards are given out by the Mystery Writers of America and are considered one of the most prestigious awards for a crime fiction writer.

Click here for the full list of nominees which include (but is not limited to) the categories:

  • Best Novel
  • Best First Novel by and American Author
  • Best Paperback Original
  • Best Crime Fact
  • Best Critical Biography
  • Best Short Story
  • Best Juvenile
  • Best YA
  • and my favorite because it can also serve as a new readalike list every year...The Mary Higgins Clark Award.
This year I have read two of the nominees.  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (best novel) and The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters (best paperback original).  Use the links to read my reviews. I greatly enjoyed both novels.

The winners will be announced in early May, but at the BPL we have an obvious favorite.  [Seriously, if you don't know who you need to read this blog more often, or just click here.]

For those of you who have read all the nominees already and are itching to get started on what will be on next year's list, Book Page has a list of 12 Mysteries coming in January for the full spectrum of crime fiction fans.

Class tonight and then look for reviews tomorrow and Friday in the spirit of my New Year's Resolution.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Backlist Not to Miss: Georgette Heyer

Over on the horror blog, I have an occasional series entitled Backlist Not to Miss.  And, while I don't do the same series here, I do make it a point to argue for the library's biggest asset over book stores, the backlist, frequently.  Click here to access posts that I have tagged backlist.

Too frequently the mainstream press on the publishing industry is all about the newest books and the latest sensations.  I get it, this sells magazines and draws in viewers and readers.  What is new is always in demand in every facet of our modern American lives.

But, there is one exception I found in this past Saturday's Wall Street Journal Books section-- when a backlist author has a new book written about them.

In the article, "The Escape Artist," Alexandra Mullen writes an appreciation of the new biography of Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester.

For many I would guess that Heyer's is a name you have heard, and you may even vaguely associate her with romance, but you probably have not read her yourself.  However, Heyer's books sit on the shelves at most public libraries, and if you check your circulation stats, they are checked out regularly. Some of mine are check out right now and all have circulated in the last 9 months!  Yet, I can't recall the last time I directed a reader to a Heyer book.

Before I go further, here is Heyer in a nutshell from NoveList:
Georgette Heyer is best known for her Regency- and Georgian-era romantic comedies of manners, but she also wrote other historical fiction and mysteries during the "Golden Age" of the twentieth century. Her historicals are remarkable both for the extent of her research and the consistency with which she portrayed her settings, bringing them to life with carefully chosen details. The wit and style of her characters and lightness and humor of her plots combine with the vividly-portrayed settings and a touch of suspense to produce entertaining stories to which many fans return again and again.
Okay back to the backlist issue.  I am glad Kloester's book is bring attention back to this fabulous writer.  With the continuing popularity of all things Jane Austen, it is important to note that Heyer has been described on NoveList as writing like "Austen distilled." She is an author we should be directing more readers to.  Thankfully they find her on their own, but we could be doing more.

This is the bad side of the backlist.  We have all of these great books at the library, but even the most diligent of us forget to suggest them to patrons.  We succumb to the shininess of the new too.

So thank you Kloester for reminding us of Heyer with your new book. And as a RA training point, we should take note when backlist authors have new books or articles written about them and use it as a chance to remind ourselves of all of the great older titles still lurking on our shelves, begging to be matched with a reader.

Personally, I will try to be more diligent about focusing on the backlist here on the blog. I like to follow the "lead by example" mantra.  But, in the meantime, if you have any backlist authors you want me to highlight, contact me.

Joyce's Reading Map

Back in January of 2012 in her At Leisure column for Booklist, Joyce resolved to make a reading map during the year.

Since the 2 of us have been offering the reading map as a midterm or final option for our students for quite a while now, we felt that it was important that we also complete one ourselves-- with the same requirements we demand of them. It is only fair.  Both of us are big proponents of being able to do what you teach.

Back in September I announced the completion of my reading map here.  And in the January issue of Booklist, Joyce came through on her resolution too.

Click here to read the column where she talks about her process or click here to jump directly to her map for Appetite for America by Stephen Fried.

Not only did I want to give Joyce public kudos for completing her map, but I also wanted to use this post as a chance to mention that tomorrow we return to team teaching (for the first time since Fall 2011) with a new crop of students.  This means the student blog will soon return with lots of new annotations, meaning many new perspectives on different reading options.

New students also means new issues and trends.  Not only do I find new information to share on the blog and with the class as I prepare for each week's lecture, but also, the students are constantly bringing different perspectives and ideas to the table. I hope to use my enthusiasm for teaching them and their excitement to learn to help energize and educate you blog readers too.

So here's to new beginnings.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Discussion: Training Needs

I have training on the brain today.

Our new BPL RA intern Elizabeth began this morning.  Elizabeth was in my class last semester and will be here all semester.  You will be hearing more about her all semester and even seeing some of her work on the blog.  I spent the morning getting her acclimated and doing some very basic training.

Later today I will be hosting 25 librarians for the ARRT quarterly book discussion here at the BPL.  We are discussing The Night Circus, a choice which will not surprise regular readers of this blog. This is a book discussion for members of ARRT, specifically those who normally lead book discussions themselves.  It gives them a chance to participate in a discussion, and we leave time at the end for people to bring up issues or concerns about their own groups so we can all talk about it together.

And, I am also finishing up the final touches on the paperwork for some webinars I will be taping for a library system.  They have requested 2 60 min classes-- one on Horror and one on Leading Book Discussions.

So I figured, why not make the entire day about training?

For today's Monday Discussion, I want to know what you want more training in.  The good news is that as a librarian trainer, I am in a position to pass your interests and needs on to people (myself included) who can offer you training in things you want to learn about.

I for one would like more training in how to streamline all the social media options in a way that is easier for our staff to keep up with it and to make it more useful to our patrons. Right now it is overwhelming to update and our offerings are not ideal for the patrons' needs.

Today is your chance.  If you can have more training for your job in any one area, what would you ask for?  Don't worry about cost or travel to get it. The sky's the limit. 

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

YA for Grownups Column

Well it is official.  As of January 2, 2013, the BPL RA Department is also in charge of YA. I do not work many afternoons or evenings so I will not be helping the teens as much as some of my fellow staff members, but I will be one of the designated book purchasers for the collection. So I will be helping them from behind the scenes.

In preparation for these new duties I have been looking into many resources and talking to other area teen librarians.  One resource I have found to be very useful to me as I work to bring myself up to speed is The Atlantic's regular "YA for Grownups Column."

This week they are featuring a Literary Tour of Historical Fiction. From the list:
"It's far more enjoyable to learn about, say, the French Revolution when you've got great characters to take you through the story, oui? Y.A. is not all futuristic dystopia or fantasy, no matter how much we love some of those books. You can also find the Wild West, early America, 16th-Century Venice, 1980s New York City, and more on the pages of your favorite teen and younger reads. The scope, in fact, is far too great to wrangle into one post. But this week in Y.A. for Grownups we name a few of our favorites and some of the most promising on the way, charting a course through history by way of books new, old, and upcoming. For your reading convenience, we've categorized the books by historical period or event."
What follows this introduction is an annotated list of books that will take you on a tour of world history. All of the books are targeted to teen readers, but are also a good read for adults.  One of the titles on the list, Code Name Verity, even made Betty's best of 2012 list.

I am going to give The Apothecary by Maile Maloy a try because, one, she is an author I have meant to read, and two, the sequel is coming out in June.


Look for more YA talk here on RA for All in the future. I am going to consider gathering information for a regularly scheduled YA post, but I need to actually spend some time doing this new job first.

I do know that sometime this spring I will be part of the team that will be assessing the current collection, weeding it, and getting it up to snuff.  When we start that process I am sure I will have something to share here on the blog, until then, feel free to share any YA links or news in the comments and look for occasional posts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ciruclating Ideas Podcast Featuring the Best of 2012 and Me

As I mentioned on Tuesday, Steve Thomas a librarian, runs a library focused podcast independently from his work at a public library.  It is called Circulating Ideas and you can access the blog and podcast here.

Last month he asked 10 librarians from all over the country to weigh in on 2012 and give a few sneak peeks for 2013. I graciously accepted the invitation to talk about horror.  Yesterday, part 1 of 2 was posted here.

Use the link to access a list of titles mentioned and click on my name to read more.

I will be back with part 2 sometime next week.

Thanks to Steve for the invite and for all his great work trying to discuss library issues in this forum.

I hope you enjoy the podcast.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Guest Post: Richard Nash from Small Demons

Today I welcome Richard Nash from Small Demons.  Small Demons is an encyclopedic database that draws connections between books, they call it "The Storyverse."

Last month The Huffington Post had this feature on Small Demons. And the LA Times just named Small Demons founder, Valla Vakili, as one of their Faces to Watch in 2013.

I have been intrigued by their database and its potential for libraries and readers for a few months now.  I had been using the site here or there, but when I kept seeing Small Demons popping up in the press in the last few weeks, I knew now was the time to get more serious about exploring its potential.  I reached out through the press contact section of the site and Richard Nash (V/P, Content and Community) got back to me quickly and kindly agreed to present Small Demons to all of us. 

So here is Nash and Small Demons and I will be back after with a few more comments:
As with some many ideas, the idea for Small Demons came from a book; in this instance, Total Chaos, the first book of Jean-Claude Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy. Our founder, Valla Vakili read the book in November 2005, and found himself drawn to various aspects of the protagonist's world. Fabio Montale is a cop on the Marseilles police force, a single malt whiskey drinker and into the jazz and blues, with tastes very similar but not identical to Valla's own. He found himself trying the whiskey Montale drinks (Valla drank Laphroaig, Montale drinks Lagavulin) and buying the music he was listening to in the book, from iTunes. By the end of the book Valla was so into the description of Marseilles and Montale's world that he wanted to immediately continue into the second volume. It wasn't available in English translation yet, so he did the next best thing. He had a vacation planned to Madrid and Paris, and he changed my Paris leg to go to Marseilles instead. A week in Marseilles, ensued, drinking the drinks, eating the food, and roaming the streets described in the book. He came back from that trip convinced that many of the best experiences we can find, are within books. And that if we could gather them all up and put them in one place, we could unlock a world of pretty incredible discovery.

It took him years though until he could convince others this was worth doing! He and eventually three co-founders started in earnest in early 2010 and have been at it ever since—I joined in Sept 2011 as the first person from the "Old World" of publishing, completely smitten by the potential of a whole new universe of serendipity, not just with books but across all culture and cultures. Suddenly, I realized, books could actually be at the center of the culture, not just at its margins, because books contain multitudes, of people, of places, of songs and food, of drink and history.
In practice, what we do is obtain digital files from publishers with whom we've signed agreements (at this stage we've agreements representing about 80% of current trade publishing) and identify keywords within them, connecting them on the site such that one one starts at, say, the Met. Like here in which you can see references to the Met from the 10,000 or so books we've indexed thus far. But you can also proceed onwards. To Steve Jobs. To Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man, to Birth of the Cool to Brooks Brothers to Julie Hecht's The Unprofessionals to Brooklyn. Or just dive in to Zippos and Koolaid and Neil Armstrong.

So this is a nice little research tool—one librarian we met told us of a patron who came in who said her son would only read books that feature Paul McCartney. A simple search! But also for reading groups, where patrons could learn about historical figures they encounter in The Help or The Paris Wife, or the food in the Life of Pi, or be supplied with playlists of all the music in Jodi Picoult's books. For displays, say for Elvis Presley's birthday (Jan 8th), one could include not just the biographies, but also Julie Hecht's book on Andy Kaufmann which discusses Kaufmann's obsession with Elvis or Ann Beattie's Mrs. Nixon. For little social media squibs too, like all the movies in Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hill
We have also added a new feature, Collections, which, as we continue to add titles, you could use as a Pinterest board for books. We'll shortly be offering embed code too, widgets, so that you could add these Collections to your own library sites and blogs.
In closing, I wanted to tell you a little about the name, partly because it's a little unusual, partly because it has to do with a librarian, namely the former Director of the National Library in Argentina, Jose Luis Borges. In his short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” Borges writes, “The history of the universe… is the handwriting produced by a Minor god in order to communicate with a Demon.” Valla read that as, the history of the universe is all the stories ever told. Minor gods are the storytellers who rule the worlds of their stories. And the Demon is the force that drives the need for stories, the place where author and reader meet. He took “Minor” and “Demon” and from there, Small Demons.
Thanks Richard.  I have begun using the Collections feature myself; click here to see a board I made of my favorite reads of 2012.  I think that in the long run, Small Demons is a better option for libraries than just  Pinterest.  On Pinterest you have the cover of the book and any note you add, but on Small Demons you can have that, plus anything else about the book that they have already added.  It is a book centric site that provides thousands of extra access points into the books we and our readers love.  But just in case, you can also add your Small Demons collection straight to Pinterest with one click if you want things in both places.


As I said back at the beginning of this post, I am still trying things out, but I am very intrigued by Small Demons.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Best Books of 2012 Wrap Up

I am in the recapping mood today.

Later this morning I will be taping an appearance on the library podcast Circulating Ideas, hosted by Steve Thomas.  I have been asked to talk about the year in horror for 2012 and preview 2013.  Click on over to RA for All: Horror to see a post which covers what I plan to talk about.  I will post a link to the actual interview when it is up on the site.

My appearance is part of a larger project where Steve will be having multiple 2012 recaps.

At the BPL, Kathy also put up her annual "Best of the Year" display.  We really try to hit all of the genre picks as well as the standard literary fiction titles.  The display has a "best" book for every kind of reader.  Each year it is a big hit with our patrons.

I am also currently reading a few of the "best" books from 2012 that I didn't get around to last year.  It is an annual right of passage for me to start a new year with a few of the previous year's best.  Those reviews will be up soon.

In the spirit of wrapping things up for 2012, here is RA Online's compiled list of the Best Book Lists for 2012.

Now let's move forward to 2013.  I will be spending much of the week ordering new titles, getting excited about what is coming soon, and preparing for a new crop of graduate students starting a week from tomorrow, so look for the talk of 2012 to die down as 2013 steams ahead.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Discussion: Reading Resolutions 2013

I'm back to a regular working and posting schedule today after a 2 week hiatus.

But today, it is back to the Monday Discussion, and it is time for our 2013 Reading Resolutions. I was so proud of how well I did on last year's resolutions that I am excited to get going on 2013.

So here are my 2013 reading resolutions.  And like last year, I am putting them here in print so that I hold myself accountable to them.
  • Genre Resolution:  Last year I resolved to read 2 "new to me" contemporary romance authors. Not only did I accomplish this small goal, but by making the resolution, I also did a lot to educate myself on the newest trends in romance throughout the year. This year I am picking a new area to focus on-- Epic Fantasy.  I am a big watcher of epic fantasy in TV and movies, but not a big reader.  I love lighter, shorter single titles or series in my books. The big epic series are very popular though and I am not as well versed in them beyond George R R Martin. I am also currently working on a Game of Thrones readalikes list for the library, so a little more research will be helpful. Thus, I resolve in 2013 to read 2 first books in epic fantasy series that are new to me.
  • Reviews Resolution: I am going to resolve again to get my reviews posted in a more timely fashion.  I have already finished one book in 2013 (with 2 more about to be done), and I will try to get that review up this week. I read and reviewed 58 books in 2012, so it is important not to get too far behind or I feel like the queue of unreviewed books is going to smother me.  So while last year I only resolved to do better, I am setting a more specific goal this year: In 2013 I resolve to do my best to never have more than 3 books waiting to be reviewed.
  • Consulting Resolution: I traveled a lot in 2012.  I did have a book come out, so it was important to get out and spread the word, but it was more than I like to travel for work.  However, I do love spreading the RA gospel to those who want to improve their service.  Thankfully, I am exploring new opportunities to tape webinars for library systems to use. I am doing my first two in March.  I am excited about the chance to make it easier both for me to provide continuing education and for busy library workers to take part in it. I think this is a nice compromise. So, if you are interested in having me come to your library, near or far, contact me and we can talk about how I can film a webinar for you and your staff.  I will even be using this technique to film an interview with a best selling author later this year.
So there are my 3 reading resolutions.  For today's Monday Discussion let me know yours. 

For past Monday Discussions click here.