One of my all time favorite resources for finding sure bet reading suggestions- either for gifts or to suggest to the patron who won’t give me more than, “I just want a good book”- is Reading Group Choices. Why? Well they have the most extensive database of proven winner, book discussion books available with one click.
First, why do I use a book discussion books resource to find sure bets for the average library patron? That one is easy to answer. It is because if a book has been a proven discussion winner that means it both has enough depth and interest to discuss something AND it has been shown to work with a large number of different readers.
Yes, as a demographic group, book discussion members are probably majority white, middle aged ladies, but also as a whole, book discussion members tend to read more broadly than the average reader. And, anyone who has been in or led a book group also knows that there is a HUGE range of opinions and reading tastes represented in every book club. Now extrapolate that out to all book clubs and....wow...we have a lot of different readers, reading a wide range of books.
You put the data together and find the books that were best for all book groups and you can be fairly confident that these titles work for a lot of readers-- or as we would call that in the RA world, they are a “sure bet.”
And, when I hand sell titles I identify through this method, I tell the patron where I found the suggestion. I add a comment about how this book was a favorite for discussion. Something like “While you may not love it yourself, there is a lot to chew on here. It has engendered a lot of conversation, enough that people loved discussing it whether or not they liked reading it.” Adding this little extra “behind the curtain,” info seems to make the patron more willing to give the book a chance. Almost always they end up reporting back that they liked reading it, even if they didn’t “love it.”
Now back to Reading Group Choices specifically. Not only do they have a list of favorites going back to 2003 that you can access here, but they also have started keeping track of the top books read each year. by sheer number. [The lists are different; a fact I find very interesting.]
Reading Group Choices and their large backlist is a wonderful place to look for suggestions, suggestions that will not only produce an excellent read for the patrons but also reinforce how important the work you do is. These are titles they could never find without you. We know how to do this people. We can give them great reads that are not brand new but still awesome. We can knock their socks off with only a few clicks.
Get to it, and have a great weekend.
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