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.


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.

Monday, July 24, 2017

RA for All Vacation Edition: Day 3- Backlist Gems from the Archives

Today I have a review of a great historical fiction novel from 2011 and happens to be set near where I am on vacation today.

I am also posting this title because of a new appeal factor for this title which has emerged-- this is the perfect read for anyone who is into craft spirits.

Read on to see why....


What I'm Reading: Brookland

Thank goodness for Shelfari and its "planning to read shelf."  This feature, and really any place you can keep your to-read list in "the cloud," is a reader's best friend.  Any place where I have Internet access, I can add a book to my to-read list.  I can also then access that list from anywhere with an Internet connection.  Without this ease of storing my to-read list, I never would have gotten around to reading Brookland by Emily Barton.

When Brooklyn first came out (Feb. 2006), I was drawn to it immediately.  The book had glowing, starred reviews in just about every journal.  It was historic fiction set in the years immediately after the American Revolution (love the time period), and it had something to do with building a bridge between Brooklyn and NYC (I'm oddly and inexplicably obsessed with the Brooklyn Bridge, specifically its creation).  Sounds like the perfect book for me, but for some reason, when it first came out, I couldn't get into it.  So, thank you Shelfari.  I put the title on the "Planning to Read" shelf, returned the physical book, and exactly 5 years later, got to read it. 

The plot follows Prudence Winship, who owns and runs a popular gin distillery in Brooklyn during the 18th century.  But while the book contains great details about distilling gin, this is really a novel about Prudence, her family, her obsession with building a bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, and her family's secrets.

This is a long, measured historical fiction novel.  You cannot zip through it, but if you want a story which recreates a time and place in cinematic detail, this is the book for you.  We begin with Prudence writing a letter to her daughter recounting her life history.  Although this is not an epistolary novel their communication back and forth does frame the book; it is the reason Prudence final reveals all of her secrets.

The story begins during the waning years of the Revolutionary War, when Brooklyn (known as Brookland then) is filled with British soldiers. Prudence tells about her father's gin distillery, the birth of her sisters, and the curse she thinks she placed on her sister, Pearl.  Pearl almost died after birth and was never able to speak.  It is the relationship between these two sisters which causes much of the tension in the novel.  It is psychological tension for 90% of the book however.  The conflict does finally rise to the surface in a highly dramatic scene.

Prudence is taught her father's trade and runs the distillery, which means the novel contains a lot of information about how a woman in the 18th Century would run a major business.  But it is her obsession with building the bridge which consumes her and takes up the last half of the novel.  It almost ruins her and her husband.

Brookland is a somber book, where the sense of place (Brooklyn in the 18th Century) is the largest appeal factor.  We get the domestic and business details of how life actually was for people in that place and time.  While this again slows the pace down, it is also fascinating.  The plot may be stagnant for 20 pages, but unique and interesting details keep you going.

Imagine a time when Brooklyn, New York was consider a rural outpost.  Also the details about business and politics in a brand new country were great.

This is also a book for people interested in the making of gin.  The process is described in great detail by Prudence as she goes through her year long training.  Women's issues (specifically their place and options in 18th Century America), family secrets, and bridge building are also discussed at length.

Brookland is an intimate portrayal of a successful but troubled family during an intriguing time period.

Three Words That Describe This Book: intimate, historical fiction, strong women

Readalikes: I kept thinking of Pete Hamill's historical fiction/magical realism tale of the history of NYC, Forever as I read this novel.  Both books recreate their similar place well.  For more details see this reporton when I read Forever.   Metropolis by Elizabeth Gaffney is also a well reviewed, historical fiction about old New York.  This time we are in the post-Civil War years.  Like Brookland, Metropolis is a sprawling epic.  The final epic, historical fiction about New York which I would highly suggest is Edward Rutherfurd's New York.

Readers who enjoyed the combination of historical fiction with the strong women who are sisters should also try Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory.

People who want more on the history of Brooklyn, try: The Battle of Brooklyn, 1776 by John Gallagher and Song of Brooklyn: An Oral History of America's Favorite Borough by Marc Eliot.

Finally, people who want the real story of the bridge that finally made it across the East River need to read David McCullough's The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge and watch the Ken Burns' documentary based on McCullough's book, Brooklyn Bridge.

Friday, July 21, 2017

RA for All Vacation Edition: Day 2- Backlist Gems from the Archives

Today's book doesn't go back as far, but since I mentioned the resurgence of Westerns [especially weird westerns] earlier this week, I thought this one was well timed.


What I'm Reading: Builders

Here are two books I recently read and reviewed for Booklist. As usual, I have included my draft review and have incorporated my "three words" and extra readalikes.

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

Nov. 2015. 221p. Tor, paperback, $12.99 (9780765385307); Tor, e-book, $2.99 (9780765384003).
REVIEW.  First published November 15, 2015 (Booklist)

Revenge is a powerful emotion, and if you are already a stone-cold killer, revenge can be a dangerous weapon as well. In this briskly paced, dark fantasy epic, the Captain, a mouse, is a brilliant and talented outlaw who was previously bested but is now determined to avenge his loss. He rounds up his old team of small animals (e.g. mole, badger, owl, salamander) to reignite the war between the brother Lords and reinstate “the Elder” to the throne. The characters are animals yes, but they are not the least bit cuddly. All are well trained assassins with a special talent, all are very good at  job, all want their Lord to stay in power, and each spills plenty of blood along the way. This is Redwall all grown up with a Western sensibility.  Expect excellent world-building, a huge cast of interesting characters, and a suspenseful, well executed storytelling style that keeps the reader guessing until the final page. Despite the high body count, there is also a satisfying amount of smart, dark humor here. A great option for fans of the off-kilter, The Sisters Brothers or the novels of the late Elmore Leonard.

Three Words That Describe This Book: revenge, unique characters, not what you think

Readalikes: This books surprised me-- in a good way.  A fantasy with animals that is really a spaghetti western.  There were parts of this book that reminded me of a Tarantino movie.  I didn’t this in my official review, but I still can’t shake the similarity especially to Kill Billor Reservoir Dogs.

Another readalike I couldn’t fit in the review is to True Grit by Charles Portis. Again, I think it’s the “not what you think” quality of both stories that is a match as well as the shared western sensibility.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

RA for All Vacation Edition: Day 1- Backlist Gems from the Archives

Starting today I am taking a much needed family vacation. I normally just let the blog go silent, but I had a little time to load some content and schedule it out before I left.

I am always promoting the backlist here on the blog so it's time to live up to my own advice. For the next 8 days of the blog I will be reporting old reviews, but here is the catch-- I will not post a single title that appeared on any of my year end best lists.

So these are great reads that may have been forgotten. They will represent different formats and genres, including nonfiction.

I'll begin with a great graphic novel. The review is of Volume 2 but I chose that because this review also links to my shorter review of Volume 1. So you get the entire series this way. Enjoy!


What I'm Reading: Castle Waiting Volume 2

Day two of review-a-polooza.  Today it is the graphic novel, Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley which I mentioned grabbing off the new shelf here.  For the record, I talked about how we organize our new shelf at the BPL in that post, but I forgot to mention that until January of this year, we did not include graphic novels on our general new shelf.  Instead, they were ghettoized to their own shelf on the graphic novels shelf.  In a few months, we will be checking to see if the circ stats went up on the new graphic novels and the general adult graphic novel collection with this change.

Now on to the review...

Just like when I read Castle Waiting Vol 1, I was engrossed in Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley, finishing it in one long sitting.  How much did I love the first volume two years ago?  Click here to see my review.  I also chose it to be included on the Browser's Corner, where I said this:
This graphic novel begins as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but evolves into a modern fable about an abandoned castle and its eccentric inhabitants. Medley uses the fairy tale format to tell the story of strong, independent women who do not need to be saved, but instead save themselves with the help of wonderful friends. I was completely engrossed by this book and could not put it down for the few hours it took me to read it.
While the first volume was more fairy tale based, Vol 2 focuses more on filling in the back story of the secondary characters and beginning a look into the history of the castle itself.  We get two new characters who have historical links to the current castle residents.  Everyone is just as eccentric as ever, but they are all more comfortable with each other.  As one character begins to move into the castle keep, they all work together to make it ready.  As walls are removed, secrets and mysteries are unearthed.

Again, like the first volume, the ending is fairly open, maybe even more so than Volume 1.  I learned a lot more about these amazing characters, but I still want to know more.  And the mysteries of the keep are only just beginning to unfold.  I hope it is not another 2 years until the next volume.

Like last time, Medley also uses black and white, pen and ink drawings in a fairly standard comics style. She often does whole page frames.  Her style may be without color, but it is extremely detailed and beautiful.  She also tells the story in a lineal fashion with frequent flashbacks to fill in the blanks. The flashbacks are cool because they tend to come as stories told by a character.  It is a nice feeling to read a story and have the story tell you a story.

The tone here is optimistic but with a nod to the tragedies of the past.  All of these characters came to the castle because of something bad which had happened to them in the past.  While they are moving forward with their lives together, the problems and trials of their pasts' casts a slight pall over the story.  All are still healing, but each is at a different stage in the healing process.

This is a book for anyone who likes fantasy based in a fairy tale atmosphere with a darker, but not oppressive tone, without sex of violence.  Even if you do not normally read graphic novels, but enjoy this type of fantasy, I would try Castle Waiting.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  eccentric characters, fairy tale-esque, engrossing

Readalikes:  In my review of Volume 1 I suggested, Jane Yolen and Robin McKinley among others.  Click here for those suggestions.

Although Kate DiCamillo writes children's books, her novels share much with Castle Waiting.  There are all fairy tale-esque, with interesting and original characters, a darker, but ultimately optimistic tone, and an engrossing pace.  Try The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (which I am reading with my six-year-old son now).

Readers who enjoy Neil Gaiman or Audrey Niffenegger should also try Castle Waiting 1 and 2, for many of the same reasons you should try DiCamillo.  The Graveyard Book by Gaiman and Her Fearful Symmetryby Niffenegger are great readalike options here.  Use the links to read my reviews and see why.

Moving on to suggestions based more on the appeal of the setting (which is huge here as the keep becomes a character in the story itself)...

Another great novel that looks into the dark mysteries of castle keeps is Jennifer Egan's The Keep.  I still think about this book, years after finishing it.  Also with all the buzz on her recent Pulitzer Prize, why not try this excellent backlist psychological suspense title by her.

For an even darker story about a house with secrets try Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke and Key graphic novel series.  This is horror, not fantasy, but these graphic novel series share the appeals of great characters with troubling pasts, and a home with hidden, nefarious secrets.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trend Alert: Westerns Are Hot [With a Mini-Review of River of Teeth]

I have been saying for about 18 months now in my live genre events, but westerns are making a comeback. People giggle and gave me that, "whatever, Becky" look, but I saw the signs of a coming resurgence, and 2017 is proving me right.

Here's the big catch though, the reason westerns are coming back is because the genre is shifting to fit what readers want to read about today, while still staying true to the essence of what makes something "a western." Up until recently, in order to be called a "western" a book needed to be about the expansion of the west and the men who tamed it. It also had to be set from after the Civil War to the turn of the 20th  Century. Okay, before I go any further, you can see right away why there is a problem with this definition-- mostly white men, very strict time frame, limited scope.

But there are other things that are appealing about westerns that many readers love and that this genre always got 100% right. For example, the rich descriptions of the beautiful landscape and the plots which place the characters in a morality play where revenge and redemption are at the center. These appeals are not unique to the western but they are things about the genre that fans also adore.

The new renewed interest in westerns uses these basic appeal factors and a broad definition of "The West" as a place, but not always in those former strict time constraints. These are stories of the west that add in something else, like another genre, a darker tone [but still with the underlying nostalgia of "The West" as a place, or are just plain "weird." They can now also be set anytime as long as "The West" as a place features prominently.

Basically, you could say, "these aren't your parents westerns" but then again, if you look hard enough, they kinda are. And the moral of the story today is...If you aren't paying attention to what is going on with westerns, you are missing out on a lot of excellent books.

Okay, now let's talk titles. Here are some books you have definitely heard of, books that are very popular and that all use western frames, motifs, and tropes prominently. At their essence these books are westerns, but interestingly, many of today's readers who enjoy these titles would not call themselves western readers:

Now let's tackle diversity in the western. One of the best books of last year and one of my favorite reads so far this year is a traditional, quiet western written by a woman which features the true diversity of characters all interacting as they would have in that place and time- News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Click here for my full review and details.

Another diverse series that is a mystery-western mashup and has been around since 1990 [with new books still coming out] is also quite popular right now due to it's success on tv, Joe R. Lansdale's Hap and Leonard series. This series features two best friends in East Texas who solve crimes- Hap, a "good olde boy" white guy, and Leonard, a gay, black, Vietnam Vet.

Speaking of Lansdale, he is often referred to as the father of another popular subgenre, the weird western. You can use this link to see more detail, but basically, these are westerns that use science fiction, horror, and supernatural elements. The subgenre has been gaining in popularity as genre blending in general has become the norm. Goodreads has a list of Weird Westerns as does NoveList.

Some recent books I have read and reviewed which specifically blend the western and horror very well are:

Use the links for each title to read a full review where I point out the well realized "western" aspects of each novel. And those are just the few I have read recently. You can use the Goodreads link to find more weird westerns.

But right now, my absolute favorite western is at the top of that "weird" list on Goodreads because it is new and AWESOME-- It's the novella [which are also a trend right now] River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. Here is the plot summary from Goodreads:
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. 
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. 
This was a terrible plan. 
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
That's right, it is an alternative history, traditional cowboy western, except instead of horses and cattle we have...hippos!

You may think this sounds dumb but I will tell you that it 100% awesome and except for the hippos, it's a straight up western.

This book is short so I am not going to give much except to point out that the characters are very diverse-- keeping with the trend in this reemergence of the western. The hero is gay, one character uses the pronoun they, and the biggest badass is a lady. It the the wild west filled with all of the actual "characters" who lived during the actual time, not a white washed version.

The character development is the bare minimum we need to enjoy this fast paced and fun western. The alternative history based on a real idea that could have been also adds to the enjoyment. As you are hooting and hollering along with the characters and the action [and you will be], it is cool to step back and realize that this is not silly...this could have been.

Oh, and did I mention hippos! I know I did, but they are given personalities just like the horses in a traditional western. You care about them, yes, but it is so fun to read about their habits, how they walk, how they are raised and bred, etc.... You cannot discount the enjoyment they add to the story.

The only negative about this book is that it is too short! A sequel is coming though. Phew!

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast paced, strong world building, fun

Readalikes: See this entire post.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Good Questions To Figure Out RA Skills In an Interview- Important Read For Both Interviewer and Interviewee

Since I was just asked recently by my long time friend and library school classmate Deb, and I have been asked before by others, I thought I would share my advice for how to ask questions that will allow you to see what kind of RA skills your job candidate has.

Part of the issue is that many adult service library jobs aren't only RA, but any public service desk job, at any library will include some RA. As I train more and more Directors and Administrators as to the importance of basic RA skills in all employees, more of them are reaching out to me for help in how to identify RA friendly applicants.

Enough people have asked in in the past 18 months that I figure it is worth repeating here on the blog.

Also, this information isn't just for hiring managers. If you are looking for a library job of any kind, keep these questions in mind. They could come up.

My gold standard question I asked every single person who I ever interviewed is so simple but it always tells me so much:
  • A patron comes in and asks for the latest James Patterson. There is obviously a hold list. Tell me how you handle this patron.
Oh this question served me well over 15 years. It's so deceptively simple, but therein lies its beauty. The applicant who stops at taking the hold is not who you want at your library. The person who goes on to say they will talk to the patron about why they like Patterson and offer to work with them to find another title to take home today [if they want] is who you want.

You do not need to be able to spit out a readalike option to “pass” this question. That’s not the point. No one, not even me, keeps readalikes for every author in their heads. Understanding that this is a good chance to have a meaningful interaction with the patron is what matters here. Someone who articulates that is someone who understands RA service.

Interviewers- ask this question and sit back. Interviewees- think about engaging the patron as you answer.

My next important question is:

  • What are you currently reading right now?
This one is key because if the answer is “nothing” then you don’t want this person. If there is any RA happening at the desk you are hiring for, you need people who like to read staffing it. Readers can be taught to do RA because it is based on wanting a good book. Anyone who enjoys reading can learn how to help others find what they would enjoy too; they key here is that they enjoy reading for themselves, first.

So interviewees-- show up at every library job with the title of the book you are currently reading. Heck, bring a book to the interview. That is even better. I did and I book talked it to the woman who hired me. [For more about her, please read this memoriam post]

This is plenty if you are hiring for a job where RA is a small part of a larger picture, but if the job has a lot of RA I would also suggest this three part question to be added in:

  • What are your favorite types of books to read? What are your least favorite? Then ask how they would help a patron who comes in looking for books in their least favorite genre.
Asking this question allows you to assess if the person grasps that RA is a service for which they can employ resources to answer questions, just like reference. Having a candidate who understands this already and can talk about initiating the RA conversation, talking to them about appeal, and using NoveList or other resources to identify readalikes, is a good sign. Again they don’t need to be an expert, you are assessing if they “get it."

Interviewees-- you got that? Of course mentioning that you also read this blog can’t hurt either.

Hope this helps hiring managers and interviewees out there.  You can always contact me with more specific questions.

I just want the managers to hire the best people and I want the best people to get hired because then the patrons, the library, and the entire community wins!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Goodreads Adds WorldCat To Book Records And Why We Need To Pay Attention

Click here to access the record

This past weekend I was updating my Goodreads and as I went to add this title to "Currently Reading," I noticed something I had never seen before.  Look closely at the "GET A COPY" section and the 4 buttons under there..

The last button is "Libraries." This link goes to the WorldCat record for the titles and it searches based on your current location.

I LOVE THIS! But for more reasons than the obvious one- Goodreads recognizing officially that many people get their books from libraries rather than buying everything. The addition of this button also shows that Goodreads has been paying attention to the fact that more and more libraries are using Goodreads. This is important.

Every time I visit a library I talk to the staff about getting on Goodreads. Why? Well, that is where your patrons already are talking about books.It is their preferred place. It's not your website or even Facebook page. So, we need to be there, assisting them where they already are.

It's dumb to just get mad at patrons for not coming to us first. Get over it; they never do. So let's go to them.

The message is getting out that Goodreads is not only a great resource for us, but it is the perfect place for us to connect with patrons, keep track of what we are reading, and collectively keep track of what our entire staff and even patrons (if they want to connect with us) are reading.

By adding the "Libraries" button, Goodreads has acknowledged that their users are big library users (we knew this already). This is great news though. The flip side is that Goodreads users can now see very easily whether or not their local library has their favorite books.

This addition is a moment to celebrate, but it is also a reminder that our collections need to be responsive to what our patrons want to read, not what we think they should read.

So the next couple of times you are on Goodreads, click on the "Libraries" button. Mention it to your patrons. See if they are using it. This button might lead to more conversation between us and our patrons about what they like to read and why-- an interaction I know we are all struggling to increase.

The ease of clicking the button and the patrons seeing that a book is not available anywhere near them, may make them more comfortable talking to us about it. We can't order what they want if they don't tell us. But also, since the patrons are already used to having book conversations and interactions through the Goodreads site, this may be a great conversation starter-- an excuse for them to bring their interests to our attention in person.

It says "Libraries" on Goodreads- so patrons will now be more aware of connecting the two places. It's like Goodreads told them to come talk to us. Seriously, someone told me this.

Time will tell, but keep this new addition to the Goodreads interaction between the users and the books in mind. I have a feeling it will be a win-win for us.

Friday, July 14, 2017

27 Female Authors Who Rule Science Fiction and Fantasy Right Now via EW

As I mentioned here, with Early Word closing, I am going to make an effort to post more collection development type lists that I didn't used to always write about on the blog. Today is one of those types of posts.

This week Entertainment Weekly wrote:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Library Reads: August 2017

This is your monthly Library Reads announcement.

I usually just cut and paste the same intro each month, but for the next few months I am amending it with this long introduction. I want to address the fact that Library Reads has been called out for their lists being too "white." While this is a fair criticism, blaming Library Reads is not fair because Library Reads and their Steering Committee are only the ones running the website, coordinating the eArc process, and counting the votes, the voters who pick the books are ALL OF YOU!!!! [Seriously, Steering Committee members votes do not come into play. I looked into it.]

So that means all of you-- all of us-- are falling down on the job of nominating more diverse titles-- both in terms of the ethnicity and race of the author and the genres represented. So I think the problem requires action in a two pronged strategy.

First, we need more of you to participate, especially those of you who read more diversely and widely. Basically Library Reads needs new blood. Library reads is SUPER EASY to participate in, yet despite that, as I travel the country meeting all of you, many of you do not participate and surprisingly, a lot of you don't even now how to begin. So, we are going to fix that. Here's how, directly from Library Reads:
Want to know more about how you can participate in LibraryReads using Edelweiss+? Join them for a free webinar on July 18th from 4-5 p.m. ET. Click here to register!
I am signed up. You should do it too. There will be an archive if you cannot make it live.

But one fallacy about Library Reads is that you have to write a full annotation in order for your vote to be counted. That is not true. You just need to read [or honestly skim] the eARC and then rate the book and submit your vote to Library Reads. But the webinar will explain it all.

I know many of you have not gotten involved because you thought that it was too difficult. I am here to tell you it is not. So let's get some new people submitting votes. It only takes a few new people to make a big difference. I am calling on you, my readers [and there are close to a thousand of you a day] to step up and make your voices heard.

[On a side note, while Library Reads will not release how many votes it takes for a book to make the list, a publishing rep [not a big 5] told me confidentially that she has gone back and crunched the numbers that she has seen for her titles and she estimates that about 40-45 votes gets you on the list. But to be number one, she has no idea because one of her books hasn't ever been number one.]

Second, stop voting for the obvious books. I know you like the big name authors. We all do, but seriously people, voting for big name, huge bestselling authors over and over again is helping no one. Looking at the list below for August 2017, WHY is Louise Penny taking a spot from a less well known author. Look don't get me wrong. I LOVE Louise Penny [proof here]. For goodness sake, if you go on NoveList and see the author appeal statement for her-- I WROTE THAT. So I am not dissing her. I adore her novels. But seriously is there a library worker in America who hasn't hear of Louise Penny AND who doesn't have this author on automatic hold already? NO!

We are Library Reads. We need to do better. Library Reads needs to be more proactive in helping library workers identify the great books we wouldn't know about without this resource. Don't squander the opportunity to read a great under the radar title- early and for free- and to then pass it on to others. Read Louise Penny early for yourself, but spend your time voting for the titles that will not find an audience without your expert help.

If we keep voting for the mainstream titles, the publishers will keep spending money signing similar authors, but if we use our power to vote for more diverse and less mainstream works that we know our patrons would love, titles that no one would know about without us raising our voice to be heard, we can make great change. We can force the publishers to sign more diverse authors and we can get some great reads into more library collections, and we can have a backlist archive of great titles for all readers.

I am not going to tell you what to vote for though. I want you-- all of you-- to decide for yourselves. Me telling you would be as bad as the publishers forcing titles on us [which they already do]. The more voices we can gather who each independently choose the books that they are passionate about, the better the list will be. It will be more diverse by default when more of us use this two pronged approach that I have outlined today.

Remember, Library Reads is not a nebulous group of librarians lording over us-- it is you, me, your co-workers. It is up to us to do the right thing here because goodness knows, the publishers aren't going to do it unless we force them to.

Let's work together to make Library Reads more diverse and reflective of the full range of great books that are coming down the pike, then when we go to use these lists as a backlist tool we have an ever better resource at our fingertips.

[Now back to your regular Library Reads message.]

Library Reads day means 3 things here on RA for All.
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books. 

August 2017 LibraryReads List

Young Jane Young:
A Novel

by Gabrielle Zevin

Published:8/22/2017 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616205041
“Aviva Grossman was involved in a relationship with her boss, who just happened to be a member of Congress. She becomes ostracized as her name is associated with scandal and  reinvents herself as Jane Young.  She has a daughter, Ruby, who decides to run away to look for her father. Ruby learns things are not always what they seem. I loved Zevin’s engaging style. The characters are flawed and real. You are rooting for them until the end.”
Audra Bartholomew, Bossier Parish Library, Bossier City, LA

Glass Houses: A Novel

by Louise Penny

Published: 8/29/2017 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250066190
“A new threat arises in Three Pines as a mysterious masked figure stands watch on the village green. ‘It’ refuses to communicate in any way, which is just the start of another thrilling adventure in this long-running series. Gamache is still trying to restore the Sûreté du Québec back to what it was before it was corrupted under the previous regime. Choices are made that will forever change our hero in ways we can only begin to imagine. The next book can’t get here fast enough.”
Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, OH

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry

Published: 8/15/2017 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN: 9780735223493
“When Emilia’s father dies, she returns to her small English village, takes over his beloved bookshop, and begins working through both her grief and the myriad renovations and changes the store needs. The author weaves stories of multiple village residents and their romantic travails and triumphs. I admired the well-crafted nature of this story, with the interwoven storylines offering wide variety without becoming scattered or straining to remain believably interrelated. All in all, just lovely.”
Carol Reich, Hillsboro Public Library, Hillsboro, OR

If the Creek Don’t Rise: A Novel

by Leah Weiss

Published: 8/22/2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492647454
“It is 1970 and pregnant seventeen-year-old Sadie Blue is trapped in a marriage with her horrific moonshiner husband Roy in an Appalachian mountain town. Their friends and neighbors live stark, gritty lives that are written with vivid and captivating detail. Hope and strength shine through in bits and pieces in this terrific debut about Sadie’s struggles. Weiss’s fresh voice captivates the reader as this tale spins from several perspectives that draw the reader into Sadie’s world. A terrific debut that will keep you riveted until the last page.”
Carol Ann Tack, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY

Reincarnation Blues: A Novel

by Michael Poore

Published: 8/22/2017 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9780399178481
“A witty and fascinating look at reincarnation. Milo has been reincarnated more than any other human. He’s been enjoying his lives and grown wise without quite achieving perfection, the ultimate goal. He is absolutely in love with Death, who’d rather just be called Suzi and ultimately would like to settle down and run a candle shop. Unfortunately, he comes to find out there’s actually a limit on how many chances you get at perfection. A moving and lovely story about love, meditation, the journey of life, and becoming the best person you can be.”
Jessica Trotter, Capital District Libraries, Lansing, MI

Morningstar: Growing Up with Books

by Ann Hood

Published: 8/1/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393254815
Morningstar is Hood’s account of growing up in a family and a town that did not value books and learning to love them anyway, finding them a gateway into ‘a big, beautiful world.’ Her taste in literature runs the gamut from Dickens to Jacqueline Susann, Frost to Rod McKuen, and Hood makes a powerful case for what each contributed to her life. Give this to avid readers; it will likely send them off to reread old favorites and maybe inspire curiosity about titles they missed. Fascinating reading.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

The Address: A Novel

by Fiona Davis

Published: 8/1/2017 by Dutton
ISBN: 9781524741990
“In New York City in the 1880s, Sara Smythe emigrates from England to manage a new apartment building, the Dakota. She soon becomes the lover of the architect, Theodore Camden. After Sara murders Theodore, she is sent to an insane asylum which is infiltrated by journalist Nellie Bly. A second story line also takes place at the Dakota, but this time in 1985. Bailey is hired to renovate the apartment after she gets out of rehab and uncovers mysterious secrets and her personal connections to Camden. This suspenseful book provides a fascinating look at the history of New York during this period.”
Maggie Holmes, Richards Memorial Library, North Attleboro, MA

Emma in the Night: A Novel

by Wendy Walker
Published: 8/8/2017 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250141439

“One night, Emma and her sister Cass go missing. Three years later, Cass returns home without Emma and tells the story of a couple who held the girls hostage and kidnapped the child to whom Emma gave birth. FBI Special Agent Abby Strauss is brought in to interview Cass with the hope of finally finding Emma. The more answers Cass gives, the more questions Abby has, and she knows that beneath all of Cass’s stories lies the truth. This thriller, with many unreliable characters, will keep readers off-kilter and uncertain, even after one final twist.”
Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ

The Burning Girl: A Novel

by Claire Messud

Published: 8/29/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393635027
“Julia and Cassie were once inseparable, but once they start middle school, things unexpectedly change. Cassie has found new friends, and it is clear Julia is not welcome. Julia doesn’t understand how Cassie could just forget how close they were and leave her to navigate a new school alone. When things start to go wrong for Cassie, Julia steps in to help but is left to wonder how close they really were. Messud really captures the anguish of the early teen years, when friendships are heartbreakingly intense and can change in an instant. Beautifully written and moving.”
Pamela Wiggins, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

The Clockwork Dynasty: A Novel

by Daniel H. Wilson

Published: 8/1/2017 by Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385541787
“When an inventor, employed by Peter the Great, creates two human-like clockwork automaton robots using anima discovered near a stream, he has no idea about the history behind those anima, nor could he imagine his creations’ future. Weaving through the present and the past, this book creates a world where humans co-inhabit alongside a group of powerful automaton robots. Fun, intriguing and nearly impossible to put down! I loved reading this book.”
Katherine Rose, Edwardsville Public Library, Edwardsville, IL

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Backlist Alert: Annual Bestseller lists from 1990-2013: It's Fun and Thought Provoking

Click here for the post
Today I am going to send you down a rabbit hole, but a rabbit hole of bookish fun.

Recently, Publisher's Weekly posted their annual bestseller lists for adult titles from 1990-2013-- all on one page!

It's backlist heaven! These are proven crowd pleasers, many of which are sitting on your shelf RIGHT NOW. They want to be read. Get them into people's hands.

I also love how after 2009, they have the links to their more detailed articles on the facts and figures behind the bestsellers list. I used to require my students read this yearly report every semester.

But these lists also reveal something else, something we know and are working to improve upon....these lists are very white. There weren't only white people publishing, or for that matter reading, books since 19900- although you would barely know that by looking at these lists.

But here's the thing, these are not arbitrary lists of people not including diverse voices. These are lists of what people actually bought-- people of all races. That really highlights the magnitude of the problem.

I know some of you are thinking, "Well, we can't fix it now. We just need to move forward."

NO, I say. We can fix it. You can fix it right now at your library.

Look, these lists are fun to post. The nostalgia factor is an awesome draw and people will discover some great backlist reads, books that were once the talk of the town but now are languishing on the shelves. I am not advocating for blatantly disregarding these lists by slapping them with a "racist" label. The lists themselves aren't the problem, they are simply an illustration of the problem.

But, why not take, for example, 1990's list and give it a 2017 makeover? Post the list to create a display of 1990 titles and then go find the other great books you have with a 1990 copyright that are from a broader perspective-- both author diversity wise AND genre wise because goodness knows both are very vanilla.

Here's how you can do this. I did an advanced search in Novelist for Publication Year of 1990 and then clicked the box for award winner. After limiting the results to Adult titles I had 168 fiction and nonfiction options that were some of the best books of that year-- and they were surprisingly diverse. And that took 2 minutes. It took longer to write this paragraph. Imagine what you could do in 30 minutes!

And, the later you go down the timeline the more results you get because the database for awards is deeper from the 21st Century on. Also, NoveList includes all of the ethnic, format, and genre specific winners in their database so you know you will capture these titles.

I think this kind of display, or even if you just make a digital list for Facebook or on your website, is a great way to showcase a wide range of proven winner titles fit for any reader no matter their background. Plus, again, it is fun to travel back in time. Don't count out the fun factor; this is leisure reading we are talking about.

PS-- Don't forget about this post from the beginning of the month when I highlighted Kelly Jensen's Backlist July project. You can totally fit this in under that. And, keep it going every July.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Best Books of 2017 So Far and Must Read Lists via Book Riot and How To Use Them To Get Our Patrons Talking to Us About What They Like To Read and Why

Today Book Riot released their "Best Books of 2017 (So Far)" list.  Yes, I know there are a lot of these types of lists this time of year, but this one is better than most because it will help you to both get good books in every patron's hand and to get your collection back in shape before the end of the year onslaught of new books.

Click here to access
Why? Because Book Riot's focus is on readers, more specifically, on matching books with readers. Sounds like what we do, right? Well you can tell they are on the same page as us because their list of the best books of 2017 not only includes all age levels and genres BUT it is also easily organized and sorted by those categories with just a simply click. To the left I have the screen shot of the clickable list.

It reminds me of the NPR Book Concierge-- which I love and you can read about here.

But a best of the year so far list that has the main goal of putting a good read in someone's hand be it by a huge best selling author or a an obscure poet, be it from a major publisher or a small press, or everything in between [because it is all there]-- this unfortunately is a rarity. We need to embrace it.

Click here and take a look. If you don't see any of your favorite reads of 2017 on this list, add your own.  Better yet, make a display with some of these titles, some of your favorites that are missing, and some of your coworkers' favorites too [send out an email to all staff with a link to this post, have them poke around the Boo Riot list, and encourage them to email back their favs]. The more voices we include in this "best books" conversation the more helpful our lists are. I would even include slips of paper and a basket at this display and ask patrons to submit their favorite book of 2017 so far.

Now you have a fun and interesting display that everyone had a hand in creating. You have the "expert" voice, the local library worker voice, and the patron opinion. You can use this information on what the staff and patrons think is "best" to develop your collections and prepare for new books coming down the pike.[For more by me on how to gather more crowdsourced best lists, click here.]

And if nothing else you have started a conversation about what people think are the "best books" and why they feel that way. That conversation alone is one we all are trying to have with our patrons every day. I hear it all the time from libraries-- "How can I get the patrons to talk to me about what they like to read?" Instead of waiting for them to come talk to you, use displays like these to jumpstart the conversation. When you announce to your patrons that you want to talk to them about what they like to read and why, they will know their opinion is wanted.

Also, while we are on the topic of displays, I want to use this post to remind you that Book Riot also does a regular series of 100 "Must Read" books on a variety of topics. I have included a screen shot of just the few most recent.
Click here to pull up all the lists tagged #Must-Read
These are lists of books new and old [yay backlist] but in non-traditional groupings. These lists are more based on how people actually read versus how the publishers market the books. Long story short, these are lists your patrons will be drawn to because they are gathered based on natural language not genre constructs.

You can simply use this link to see everything they have ever done in these 100 books series. Each one has plenty for a display, large or small. And you can print out the graphic, the title, and the short description for your display too. Just give Book Riot a credit. This couldn't be easier AND your patrons will love it.

These displays will also jumpstart conversations because patrons will want to talk about titles that they would include on the list too. When we say "serial killer books" patrons know what that is. They have an opinion and will be more open to sharing it rather than if we said "psychological suspense" or "non-supernatural horror."

Want the patrons to talk to you? Then stop trying to sound like you know better. You don't. Each reader is an expert on what they like to read. Use natural language and ask for more input and opinions. In other words-- put the reader first like Book Riot does.