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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

An Archive of My Past Podcast Appearances

So today I am visiting my friend and colleague, Becca Boland, the Assistant Head of Popular Materials/Teen Librarian at the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, IL. They are starting a library podcast and I am going to be one of their early guests. 

Many of you dont know this about me, but I worked in radio in a previous life. I began working at a college station as a high school senior and went on to work my way up through my college radio station, all the way to Program Director. I even spent the Summer of 1995 as an Intern at what was, at the time, one the most popular radio station in Chicago. I really considered going into radio as a career, but ultimately it was not to be [my choice].

However, one good side effect of that radio experience, is that I know what I am doing when people ask me to record podcasts with them. In fact, every time I have done a podcast, the host has said they were surprised I was so good.  Ha. Its my secret super power.

This got me thinking about the podcasts [and radio shows] I have been on. I have said a lot of good things that can help many of you, but they are scattered all over the place. So today, I present to you 1 list of all of my audio appearances. In the future I will add more to this archive as they come up, and I will also put this link at the top of my Recent and Upcoming Presentations page for easy retrieval.

Here we go....

Becky’s Podcast [and Radio] Appearance Archive:

  • Circulating Ideas
  • Get Booked
  • Booked
    • Episode 351- Interviews from StokerCon 2017 where Nancy Holder, then me, then F Paul Wilson are interviewed on the Queen Mary
  • Wisconsin Public Radio
    • I have appeared on different Halloween shows for the network. Use this link to pull them all up. In some, I had to take calls and make suggestions right on the spot!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Video Access Now Live for "How to Stay in Top Genre Shape"

Click here for the video

Remember that day, almost a month ago when Karen Toonen, Marlise Schiltz and I presented a program about genre studies for Booklist, sponsored by NoveList and at Chicago Public Library? I am hoping the answer is yes, but just in case here is the link back to that day [with access to our slides]. 

Well, now you can view the entire program for free! Click here to access the video on the Booklist YouTube page.

I am very proud of this program both for what I shared and for inviting Karen and Marlise to share  their experience, from the trenches, running genre studies-- large and small. Plus, I talk about hippos. Yup, yes I do. That was not a typo. Click here for more on that.

I am also happy to announce that this presentation has sparked me to update and revamp my popular "Demystifying Genre" series of programs. I already have some takers on the yet to be completed programs for 2017-18. It seems that staying in genre shape is emerging as a new RA training trend. I am happy to see that because I have spent a lot of time traveling the country reinforcing basic RA skills with many of you in person and through my blog posts, and now, it appears everyone is starting to feel comfortable enough to take the next step.

I can’t wait to see where this all goes. But for now, watch us making staying in genre shape manageable and fun. You can get a head start on this RA training trend-- for free!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Makes a Virtual Stop at Harrison [NY] Public Library

Today I am participating in the Harrison [NY] Public Library’s in service day by presenting my popular Booktalking Program for the entire staff-- virtually.

Before I get into the details and the slides here in today’s post, I wanted to use this chance to remind all of you that many of my program can be rework for a virtual appearance. In this case, I will be presenting live via Skype and can not only do the full presentation, but also answer any questions from the group.

This type of appearance allows me to visit more libraries both because it costs less and it is more easily fit into my schedule since I only need about 3 hours of actual life time to present a 60-90 minute program-- not 1-2 days for when I provide in person training.

So, if you have an inservice day coming up and want me to provide some training, but didn’t think you could get me, consider virtual and contact me.

Now back to today’s scheduled event:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 from 2:45-3:45pm Eastern Time.

Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons.
Click here for slide access

Monday, September 18, 2017

Understanding the Complex Appeal of "Girl” Thrillers

Look, I know you are all sick of books being called the next Gone Girl or the next Girl on the Train, and we could all use a break from the word “girl" in the title, but I also want to caution you all to not get so caught up in being sick of this trend that you lose sight of the fact that it is still a trend and patrons still absolutely love these books.

Seriously, it is still a huge trend, but often we are too busy poo-pooing the trend still being here that we forget to keep the patron’s experience in mind. There are reasons beyond the word “girl” appearing in the title that keep bringing people back to these titles again and again. We have to keep asking ourselves that question-- Why do readers continue to love these stories?

The reasons of course, differ for each reader, but when a trend stays around this long [it’s been 5 years and 3 months since Gone Girl first came out], there are still people coming to it with fresh eyes all of the time.  We need to stop being “too cool for school” for a few moments and remember that if this is what readers want, we need to help them find more they will enjoy, and we need to do it without rolling our eyes.

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Stephen Sposato, I read this article last week in Bustle entitled, “Why Do We Love To Read “Girl” Thrillers So Much? Experts Day It’s About More Than Suspense.”

The article is excellent and well researched. Many librarians were consulted to try to figure out why these books have such staying power. Conclusions such as the way the story is told and how these books serve as a bell ringer of the scary times we live in, were only a couple among many insightful appeal assessments. The article also talks at length about how not new this trend is.

Read it now. I promise it is worth the 10 minutes it will take you. Not only will it allow you to look at a trend you are sick of with fresh eyes so that you regain that enthusiasm to help a reader looking for more of these books, but also I bet many of you will be inspired to run out and create fresh readalike lists and displays featuring the “Girl” books that just last week you thought, “If I never see one of these books again it will be too soon.”

I hope you also take this one trend example of how important it is for us to hold back our judgement when it comes to our patrons. We may be sick of a trend because we see it from start to finish, but patrons come to us with a completely different background and context. They are only looking for a good book, a good story, one featuring the things they like. They don’t need our judgment and baggage.

The entire “Girl” trend, its staying power, and our attitude about it should be a warning. Trends like this keep us in business people. No one can afford to buy all of these books, but yet, everyone can’t stop reading them. Seems like a sweet spot which we fit into perfectly. Let’s embrace our place in the giant “Girl” machine.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Library Reads: October 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 the recording of a LibraryReads webinar on how to participate.

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. 

October 2017 LibraryReads

Seven Days of Us: A Novel

by Francesca Hornak

Published:10/17/2017 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780451488756
“The Birch family will be spending the Christmas holiday in quarantine, thanks to eldest daughter Olivia’s recent relief work in a disease-infested Liberia. She has returned to England but must be in quarantine for seven days. This family has not ever spent that much time in each other’s company. Each person has secrets that are slowly revealed over the course of the seven days. It is particularly interesting to watch them become the family that they should have been all along: supportive and loving. An enjoyable read.”
Cheryl Braud, Iberia Public Library, New Iberia, LA

The Last Mrs. Parrish: A Novel

by Liv Constantine

Published: 10/17/2017 by Harper
ISBN: 9780062667571
“Daphne seems to have hit the jackpot by marrying Jackson Parrish. They live in a lovely Connecticut mansion and travel around the world, all the while raising two beautiful daughters. When Mrs. Parrish meets Amber, a kindred spirit, Daphne instantly feels a connection, perhaps someone to fill the endless void of sorrow that has plagued her since her sister’s death. We learn that nothing is what it appears to be. The author sets an atmospheric pace for this story, leading up to its dramatic conclusion.”
KC Davis, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, Fairfield, CT 

The Last Ballad: A Novel

by Wiley Cash

Published: 10/3/2017 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062313119
“The story of little-known union hero Ella May Wiggins is central to this look at unionization during the late 1920s. Once she sings her first song at a union rally, she becomes a beacon for others. As her story becomes intertwined with the violence and fear of the clash between owners and workers, we are swept up in a powerful novel that exposes the prejudice and hatred among races, genders, and economic classes. The stories of Ella, her children, and friends woven throughout cement Cash’s place among our great living writers. This one will be a huge book discussion hit!”
Ron Block Cuyahoga County Public Library, Brooklyn, Ohio 

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death

by Caitlin Doughty

Published: 10/3/2017 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393249897
“America’s favorite mortician takes you on a tour of death cultures around the world in her latest book. Sharing what she’s learned, Doughty presents everything from composting bodies to ma’nene’, a ritual of periodically exhuming corpses to clean and redress them as a sign of respect. She encourages us to consider our options and become less distant from physically caring for the deceased and ultimately our own mortality. We’ve all got it coming. Honest, yet gentle and with the appropriate amount of humor, Doughty makes the morbid very readable.”
PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC

The Rules of Magic: A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

Published: 10/10/2017 by Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781501137471
The Rules of Magic is the prequel to Hoffman’s Practical Magic. Here we learn the background of sisters Franny, Jet, and their brother Vincent. The story begins with all three as teens, ostracized for being witches. Their mother sets up rules designed to suppress their natural ability. When the siblings are sent to visit their aunt they learn family secrets and find out who they truly are. I was enraptured by this fabulous book, which is filled with magic and charm.”
Terri Smith, Cornelia Habersham County Library, Cornelia, GA

The Stolen Marriage: A Novel

by Diane Chamberlain

Published: 10/3/2017 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250087270
“Interracial marriage, money fraud, and adultery are just a few elements of this historical fiction. Set during WWII, sweet Tess has dreamed of marrying Vincent Russo since she was a teenager. Plans have been made and a date has been set, but several decisions made in the course of the engagement will cause a detour in both Vincent’s and Tess’s lives. Will they be able to find their way back to one another?”
Debbie Frizzell, Johnson County Library, Overland Park, KS

Uncommon Type: Some Stories

by Tom Hanks

Published: 10/17/2017 by Knopf
ISBN: 9781101946152
“Hanks writes about characters that he would love to play in the movies, had they been written. This collection of stories holds a myriad of emotions, settings, and time periods with two common threads: the typewriter and uncommonly normal men and women. You love the characters because you have something in common with all of them – some win, some lose, some are heroic and some timid, but they are all borne of the human existence and go largely unnoticed. Hank’s charm and wit come through.”
Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX 

We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True

by Gabrielle Union
Published: 10/17/2017 by Dey Street Books
ISBN: 9780062693983

“Union writes with such heart and energy that it really does feel like she’s talking to you while you share one (or several) bottles of wine. She touches on so many topics, including infidelity, women’s sexual health, and teaching young black men to protect themselves in a world that fears them. She also manages to talk about multiple famous people without sounding fawning, with the exception of Prince, which makes sense because…it’s Prince. I thoroughly enjoyed this title and can’t wait to put it in the hands of others.” 
Lisa Hoffman, Bloomfield Public Library, Bloomfield, NJ 

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels

by Joe Hill

Published: 10/24/2017 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062663115
“Hill’s four short novels expose the individual and societal pressures that motivate our sometimes fateful decisions. The first story is a coming-of-age tale with an added bit of horror. The second story is an unflinching look at what has become a common tragedy: mass shooting. The third story is an unrequited-love-meets-the-Twilight-Zone story that touches on loneliness. The final story is poignant and introspective. All four tales often gave me pause and made me think. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of character-driven works of horror and/or drama.”
Jennifer Wilson, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN 

Manhattan Beach: A Novel

by Jennifer Egan

Published: 10/3/2017 by Scribner
ISBN: 9781476716732
“Anna and her father Eddie arrive at the home of Dexter Styles on Manhattan Beach searching for a job during the Depression. After Eddie goes missing five years later, Anna supports her mother and sister by working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. One night, Anna approaches Styles for information about her father. They become involved, but he is still marked by his past relationship with Eddie. Egan’s description of New York in the 30s and 40s is so immersive that you feel like you’re waking up when you have to put the book down.”
Barbara Birenbaum, Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Indie Picks Website is LIVE with Sample Horror and Romance Columns!

IT’S ALIVE!!!!! [As you can imagine, I have always wanted to say that for real.]

As I have been mentioning here on the blog and on Twitter, IndiePicks Magazine, is very close to being a reality, so close in fact, that they have put their first ever review columns on their website-- my horror column and Robin Bradford’s romance column.

In case you have missed the news below is more information from Naomi Blackburn, Publisher of IndiePicks from the “Our Story” page:
Being the dedicated bibliophile I am, I am also a fan of my library. I couldn’t afford to read as much as I do if wasn’t. I often tried to seek out some of my favorite “outside” authors and was always told that the libraries didn’t carry them. I researched why and although the reasons made sense, I knew there had to be a solution; one that was a win for the authors, addressed librarians’ concerns, and met industry requirements.  
As I plunged deeper into studying the availability of books, other areas popped up and I saw the same issues related to both music and film. There were a number of great recording artists and movie producers who chose not to go with a traditional studio, but didn’t scrimp on quality.  
I wanted to do something that would serve both industries. To achieve this librarians had to be the ones to review the works. I knew that for a review to have credibility, it had to have the librarian seal of approval. Our editor, Rebecca Vnuk, comes to IndiePicks Magazine with over a decade of library experience, including the American Library Association’s Booklist. If our librarians wouldn’t feel comfortable purchasing the work for their own catalog, we won’t recommend it for your reading list.  
As I got to know the independent authors and artists, I found they were just as passionate about their craft as those Big 5 authors and major studios. These people became my friends and I knew in my heart, if I could do ANYTHING to help them I would.  
I understood library policy and knew librarians wanted to work with authors outside the Big 5. I heard the call from the ALA to open their libraries to these works, but the lack of a recognized review source was still at the forefront of the problem. In searching out a solution my mind went back to my favorite little review magazine and the concept of IndiePicks was born.
Just like with my Booklist reviews, I will be posting my IndiePicks reviews here too. And just like those posts, I will add my “Three Words” to the post. Unless there was something I couldn’t fit in the review, however, I will not add more readalikes or appeal statements. I get a little more room in these columns than normal reviews, so we should be good.  They will also be archived and cataloged on the horror blog for easy retrieval by author last name.

I am contracted to provide at least 3 horror reviews per month, but I know for a fact that in future issues I will have more content than that. [But, that being said, I am the only horror reviewer and I only have space for 3 reviews a month, so please be patient with me.]

And now, here is my first IndiePicks review column. Buy all of these books for your library. They are all out right now!


Bracken MacLeod is on quite a roll. Last year he released Stranded, which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, and this year he follows up with an utterly original and chillingly realistic take on zombies with Come to Dust (JournalStone/Trepidatio Publishing, $17.95, ISBN 9781945373664). Mitch is an ex-con who lives for his toddler niece, Sophie. He is her unofficial guardian since her mother abandoned her, but he doesn’t mind because this little girl is his everything—until she tragically dies in her sleep. But Sophie’s death is not final. Soon after she dies, children all over the world begin to rise from their graves. The children who return, including Sophie, seem normal (except for varying states of decay) but they also have a terrifying power—one that is not apparent at first. As governments and religious leaders debate what to do about this unique zombie problem and how to regulate these undead citizens, Mitch and his girlfriend go on an adventure to save Sophie from danger and find a safe place for families like theirs to survive in this new world. With a fast-paced, thriller style of storytelling, an emotionally intense premise which will hit anyone who has ever loved a child right in the gut, and a twist that makes it feel fresh, Come to Dust is a story that does not disappoint. Fans of M.R. Carey, Dean Koontz, and The Leftovers will find this a sure bet.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast paced, emotionally intense, chillingly realistic


Also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award last year (in the Best First Novel category) were Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, twins who are better known as The Sisters of Slaughter. In their second novel, Those Who Follow (Bloodshot Books, $14.99, ISBN 978-0998067995),  the Sisters employ their trademark style of holding no punches on the bloody details in a way that never feels gratuitous. Here we have two alternating storylines about two young, troubled women, twin sisters who do not know of the other’s existence. Celia has been kidnapped in the Arizona desert by Byron, a very evil man with an unknown supernatural power. Held captive with others in an abandoned church, Celia has had the year of her capture (age 14) carved on her forehead. Casey is living in a mental institution. Her behavior is getting more erratic until one day, the number 14 appears scratched into her forehead out of nowhere. Casey and Celia are special girls, with a connection to each other, and the power to overthrow the monster Byron—but will they find each other in time to save themselves (and the others)? They don’t even know what or who they are each looking for. The back-and-forth narration transitions smoothly and keeps the dread and the pace steadily building. There is necessary setup here, but it is all worth it, and the payoff is fantastic. Those Who Follow is a great choice for readers who miss the early 2000’s Leisure Horror line or the horrific tales of the late Richard Laymon.

Three Words That Describe This Book: parallel storylines, intense dread, violent but not gratuitous


Speaking of fantastic, Hematophages (Sinster Grin, $15.99, ISBN 9781944044558) by Stephen Kozeniewski is one my recent favorites. Paige, an academic who has never left her space station home base, gives the reader insight into a new world of the future where the male gender is extinct, corporations have replaced governments, and most humans live off-Earth. Paige is hired as a historian, part of a team sent on a salvage mission to find a ship that has been lost for centuries. As they travel to their destination, readers meet an intriguing cast of characters and get a tutorial in the intricate workplace politics (remember, this is a world controlled by corporations). When the team reaches the lost ship, the true terror begins, a terror which springs from the hematophages, lamprey-like creatures who attach onto their prey and suck out their insides for nourishment. And these sentient creatures particularly enjoy the human brain. Hematophages has a direct and snarky narration and a seamless inclusion of accurate science which never intrudes upon the fast-paced storytelling, only enhancing it. But because this novel is also horror, it also has terrifyingly awesome and gross scenes of the creatures as they take over the crew, one by one. While this novel is perfect for fans of classic horror movies in space like Alien or Event Horizon, it is also equally influenced by twenty-first-century horror classics like The Rising and The Ruins with more than a touch of the humor of Office Space. All that and a perfect horror ending means that the only problem you will encounter as you hand-sell this book to readers is how to pronounce the title and author’s last name.

Three Words That Describe This Book: dark humor, great world building, terrifying

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

RA for All Visits Sourcebooks and Recommends Five Upcoming Titles

Last week I took a drive out to Naperville, IL to take a tour of Sourcebooks. Sourcebooks is celebrating their 30th anniversary in style. Last year their founder Dominique Raccah was named PW Person of the Year and this year they became the 10th largest publisher in America. It is a success story that we don't hear often enough in our line of work.

This is a independent publisher who is doing things right in a very tough market. Also, they do this from the Chicago suburbs, while most of publishing is in NYC. The Library Marketing team in particular are always front and center at any conference booktalking their titles to us. They know they are smaller than their competition, but they also know their books are just as good. And they are. Critics and readers agree.

Some of Sourcebooks' recent rise has to do with the fact that they embraced the Diverse Books movement before it was a movement. Precisely because they couldn't compete financially for the more mainstream authors, Sourcebooks has always been forced to look further afield for new voices. They have focused on bringing International bestsellers to American audiences for the first time. They have also found own voices authors like Zoraida Córdova and her Brooklyn Brujas series which have gone on to be hugely successful both with readers and critics.

This is one of the reasons why I asked Sourcebooks to be a part of the ARRT sponsored panel I have organized for the upcoming ILA Annual Conference [details next week]. I asked their representative to talk bluntly about how publishing diverse voices is a money maker. Why? Because there are amazing authors not getting a chance to publish their awesome stories that readers crave and love, and the only way to convince publishers to change from their status quo is to show them how much money diversity can make for you.

But more on that panel coming soon. Today, I wanted to highlight 5 new and upcoming titles from Sourcebooks which I am very excited about. And I think you should listen to me because earlier this year I got super excited about Radium Girls months before its release and I was 100% right about that one. Order these titles as soon as you can! So without further ado, here they are, in order of release date with links and descriptions from Goodreads.

The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward [3/7/17]. Interesting fact about Ward, while she was born in the US she grew up in Africa and the Middle East. She brings a non-Western view point to her work, making this title rise above the many other current takes on Gothic, historical fiction:
The genre-bending creativity of David Mitchell meets the gothic voice of Susan Hill in this highly praised debut 
Iris and her father are the last of the Villarca line. For generations, the Villarcas have been haunted by "her." Her origins are a mystery, but her purpose is clear: when a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child—she comes, and death follows. 
Confined in their lonely mansion on Dartmoor, Iris makes her father a promise—to remain alone all her life. But when she's fifteen, Iris breaks that promise. She dares to fall in love, and the consequences of her choice are immediate and heartbreaking. From the sun-spotted hills of Italy to the biting chill of Victorian dissection halls, The Girl from Rawblood is a lyrical and haunting historical novel of darkness, love, and the ghosts of the past.

The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. [9/5/17] This one I have read, and I will also be singing it's praises in the October 1 issue of Library Journal. This is an excellent and gripping apocalyptic tale. I am also giving away copies of this book everywhere I go this fall:
Perfect for fans of The Martian, this powerful post-apocalyptic thriller pits reluctant father Edgar Hill in a race against time to get back to his wife and children. When the sky begins to fall and he finds himself alone, his best hope is to run – or risk losing what he loves forever.

When the world ends and you find yourself forsaken, every second counts. No one knows this more than Edgar Hill. Stranded on the other side of the country from his wife and children, Ed must push himself across a devastated wasteland to get back to them. With the clock ticking and hundreds of miles between them, his best hope is to run -- or risk losing what he loves forever.
Mister Tender's Girl by Carter Wilson [2/13/18]. With it's inspiration in a true story, this is a frightening ride just slightly on the horror side of thriller. Great for Stephen King and Gillian Flynn fans:
How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?

At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn't exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, nothing more.

Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but he is never far behind.

Addictive and chillingly surprising, this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller will have you transfixed until the very last page
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano [8/18]. Yes that Eoin Colfer. This graphic novel, for ages 10 and up, will become a classic. It brings the struggles of refugees to the masses in a way that will effect everyone who encounters it. Like Maus, Persepolis and March before it, Illegal will allow for the average American and their children to engage in important and necessary conversations about our world and some of the most difficult moments in recent history. Sourcebooks has not entered the graphic novel market until now, and boy did they pick a great book to begin their line. I have read this one and if you are not moved by it, there is something wrong with you.
This is a powerful and timely story about one boy's epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children's Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels.
Ebo: alone.
His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe.
Ebo's epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.
And last, but definitely not least the book I am most excited to dive into, once all my required, work reading is done, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton [9/18]. That link goes to the British version which comes out sooner, and doesn't include the 1/2 in the title. This book is Life After Life mixed with Agatha Christie and a touch of Twin Peaks. I am going to sit down with this one some time this winter and inhale it. Can't wait.
Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. 

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath...
For the full Sourcebooks catalog, click here.

And please don't forget about publishers outside the Big 5.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Graphic Novel and Audiobook Resource Updates

Over the last few days I have posted some longer pieces about working with readers of graphic novels and audiobooks [guest post]. Today I have a few, quick followups.

Earlier this summer, I let you all know about NPR’s summer poll where they were asking people to vote for their favorite graphic novels. Well, I forgot to post the results.  Here they are, your 100 Favorite Graphic Novels and Comics. The list is well done as it is broken up into categories like graphic novels [fiction and nonfiction separate], manga, superheroes, and more. This is a list you can use in conjunction with my post on how to help Graphic Novel format novices. It is the perfect place to start with newbies because, one, it is a crowd sourced list* so you are getting a best of the best list but chosen from thousands of different readers all with different appeal preferences, and two, each entry has an annotation with comments on the story AND the art. This is a resource you need to bookmark and use over and over again.

Yesterday, Book Riot had this post about the Best Audiobook Apps, Subscriptions, Freebies and More. I am more posting this list because it promotes Hoopla and Overdrive. The post I had Jez write for me last week was all about why we still need books on CD, but the fact is that many of our patrons use those apps. They also read Book Riot. So chances are when they read this post they will see those library apps and then want to talk to us about the entire article, figuring since it mentioned library things we will know about it. So there you go. Take a look and get ready to talk to people about how to stream audiobooks with their library card.

Tomorrow I will be back with a longer post about my trip to Sourcebooks, Inc and have a preview of some of their upcoming titles worth your time.

*For more by me on how to use crowd sourced lists better at your library, click here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

ARRT Book Club Study and Genre Study Notes and News and a ARRTCon teaser

Last Thursday we had our every other month ARRT Steering Committee meeting and I have many things to share with all of you out there, no matter where you live. Here's the preview and then you can read below for the details that most interest you:

  • Updates to the Book Club Study including new notes and the November meeting info
  • Updates to the current Genre Study
  • Announcement of the 2017-18 Genre study topic!
  • A save the date with some early info on ARRTCon [which will be awesome and a great deal]
Okay, now all the juicy details.

The Book Club Study group met in July and had an amazing discussion of Dream Land: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. The group highly recommends doing this book as a discussion at your library. They could have kept going for another hour. The leadership topic was about how discussing nonfiction is different with your book club. The group also created an EXCELLENT list of nonfiction titles that worked and didn't work with people's book clubs. We will eventually turn it into a bibliography and post it here, but if you can't wait, it is in the notes. Speaking of....

Click here now to access the notes on the discussion of both the book and the leadership topic. If you encounter this post in the future, the links will have been moved to the Archive page.

All of the details about anything book discussion related from upcoming schedules, to notes about any of our past discussions, to resources from other places are always available on the ARRT Book Club Study site.

Please join us for a discussion of The Mothers by Brit Bennett led by Megan Rosol: 
It begins with a secret. 
"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season." 
It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. 
But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. 
Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.
In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a "what if" can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.
The discussion will be held:
Wednesday, November 8th
2-4 pm
RSVP to Megan Rosol ( 
Please arrange to obtain your own copy of the book for the discussion 
As always, discussion of the book includes a nuts-and-bolts session devoted to sharing practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book discussion leaders. 
The Leadership Topic, led by Greta Ulrich, will focus on discussing sensitive topics. Please come ready to share your successes and failures in this area so we can all help each other. Also, remember that you can always bring any problems or concerns you have with your group, no matter the topic, so we can all help each other.
I am especially excited for this discussion because I loved The Mothers the first time I read it. I also advocated for this leadership topic once Megan picked this book for her discussion because we really need to find a way to teach people how to have civil, respectful, and thoughtful discussions about touchy subjects. People in general are doing a very bad job at this. We, as library workers, can lead through example here.

Now on to the news about the current Genre Study. Here I will be quick because you all want to know about the next one. Please go to the Speculative Fiction Genre Study website for lots of new information. We have the entire schedule from the past 2 years up with notes and assignments. We have only 2 meetings left, so there is a ton of useful info here. Use it to train yourself or as a guide to lead your own genre study.

But you want to know what's next.  I know. Well, we tallied the votes and....drum roll please... Romance came out on top, barely beating nonfiction. We are all very excited to get started planning the next genre study and will be using much of what we learned by shaking things up with the Crime Fiction and Speculative Fiction Studies to improve this one. Plus, we have a team of Romance experts and novices on the leadership team which I think is fantastic. I really think a genre study is improved by including the voices from both sides in the planning and execution of the genre study.

And the last bit of ARRT news is that you all should save the date for ARRTCon on Thursday, November 9th at Naperville Public Library's newly renovated 95th Street branch. This all day RA focused conference will include breakfast and lunch, a keynote by a Chicago area author, the chance to choose your [multiple] breakout sessions based on your training needs [I will be leading some], programming geared toward all levels from RA 101 to RA experts, and a book buzz with free ARCs from Sourcebooks and Random House-- all for a cost of a half day at our state conference. And it’s no filler-- all RA, all day.

The details are almost all in place and being passed on to our contracted graphic designer. The EventBrite is being set up so you can rank your breakout session choices. As soon as it is all ready, I will let you know. This is going to be one of our best,  all day events ever.

Finally, don't forget about the ARRT website or Facebook page for lots of RA related news and info. We realize that membership makes more sense for people who can attend our programs so we offer free access to the newsletter and all of our notes to help ALL. Every patron deserve quality RA Service, and ARRT is doing our part by making as much of our information available as possible.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

Guest Post: Audiobooks are Having a Moment, But Who Are We Leaving Behind?

Today I am offering up a guest post by a local colleague of mine, Jez Layman. This past summer we sat down for lunch and had a long talk about the current pros and cons behind the increase in audiobook usage. Knowing that I had a lot on my plate, I asked her to write a piece for me about the issues that came up in our conversation.

Please read the well researched post below. I 100% endorse everything Jez lays out here. I too am happy that audiobooks are so popular but this move toward digital only is problematic for a number of reasons which Jez discusses.

I hope this gives you something to think about over the weekend. I also urge you to continue this conversation and add your thoughts as Jez asks at the end of the piece. This is an evolving issue and we need as many voices in this conversations as possible.

This is not the last word on this topic, rather, Jez and I hope this post is the beginning of a much larger conversation, one that involves readers, authors, and publishers.

Audiobooks are Having a Moment, But Who Are We Leaving Behind?
By Jez Layman

You’ve probably noticed, but audiobooks are having A Moment right now. While publishers report a drop in ebook sales (once claimed to be the future of reading), audiobooks have become the fastest growing medium in the publishing world, seeing a whopping 31% increase in sales between 2015 and 2016. In public libraries, audiobooks make up 13% of circulation in 2015 at the 395 public libraries surveyed by LibraryJournal, with the circulation reaching 17% at larger libraries. That means approximately 3 of every 20 checkouts are audiobooks, and that’s only expected to increase. In fact, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) reports that 24% of Americans say they’ve completed an audiobook in the last year; that’s a third of people who report reading a book in the previous year.

This growth can be attributed to many things. First, the overall quality of audiobooks is significantly better than it used to be. Gone are the days of a single slow, monotone reader in an empty room. Audiobook publishers today have invested real production value in their titles, hiring award-winning narrators and big name celebrities, adding music and sound effects, and including sound editors. Put all that together and you get the high quality listens that really live up to the old “movie in your mind” tagline. In addition to this, the media has really ramped up its support, with sites and publications like the New York Magazine, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Bookriot, and LifeHacker all writing articles on how audiobooks count as reading and which listens should be at the top of your list.

Another major factor (in my opinion), at least in the US, is a culture that prides itself on multitasking, leaving no minute unaccounted. This is the kind of culture that pushes us to read while we workout, clean, garden, and buy groceries. Admittedly, I myself fall into this group, and if I can’t listen to a book while driving or biking, there’s a good chance I’ll never read it (RIP my TBR). In a 2014 article, Forbes called listening to audiobooks “the ultimate in multitasking.” Books on Tape had a whole marketing campaign around this idea—one I found both charming and largely successful—which handed out colored pencils, seed packets, and headphones. Because of this, audiobooks have reached out to completely new readers who may not have had time before or simply retain information better when they’re listening than when they read something on a printed page. Aside from the Harry Potter series, my own mother finished maybe two books in the last twenty years—right up until I got her to try audiobooks last year. Now she goes through about five or six a month and never stops pestering me for new recommendations.

Personally, I’ve been saying for years that the growth of audiobooks is closely linked to the explosion of podcast listening, and finally the APA agrees with me! It makes perfect sense: the hype around podcasts gets people in the habit of listening to stories—fiction or non-fiction—and working them into their everyday routine. In this way, podcasts have become the gateway drug to audiobooks, with podcast listeners listening to twice as many audiobooks as other listeners, especially among the under-35 crowd.

Finally, the big change that’s driven the current audiobook market: digital formats. When you want to listen to an audiobook on a run, out in the garden, or on the train, a streaming app or downloadable file makes perfect sense. You can carry multiple titles in your phone and smoothly transition from one chapter or book to the next without having to switch out CDs. In 2016, downloadable and streaming audiobooks accounted for 38% of all audiobook titles offered by libraries, which is expected to grow to 51% in 2019, making it the majority.

In light of this change, many publishers are starting to release new audiobooks that are only available in a digital format, slowly phasing out CDs. While this makes sense from a commercial standpoint, as a listener and especially as a librarian, it frustrates me. There are few moments in my career as frequently disappointing as hearing about a great title or receiving a request from a patron, only to find out the library can’t acquire it in either the preferred format (CD) or at all. When I first took over my library’s audiobook collection in 2015, this was incredibly rare, now it happens about once a week.

Before I get into the publishing side of things, let’s take a moment to consider the reasons someone might want CD over download. Perhaps they listen primarily while driving and their car isn’t new enough to support a bluetooth connection or have an aux cord to hook up a phone. Maybe the patron doesn’t own a smartphone or the phone they do have doesn’t have enough space to store an audiobook or enough data to stream it. Maybe the person just isn’t all that technologically skilled. Maybe the patron is blind, but prefers the larger selection the public library offers to services like Talking Books, as my most voracious listening patron does. Age also plays a key role here because while most audiobook listeners (52%) are under age 45 (and another 15% under 65), we still need to recognize that the digital divide often comes with the generational gap. Smart phones, tablets, and ereaders are becoming more common among seniors, but many are being left behind by these digital trends. Isn’t it the library’s job to serve these users, too?

Another big reason listeners and libraries might avoid digital-only audiobooks is that they simply can’t afford them. When other librarians cover for me when I’m on vacation, I always come back to surprise and complaints over just now damn expensive audiobooks can be, especially in comparison to their print counterparts. An unabridged CD audiobook (for a library) generally costs in the range of $35-$65, with some titles landing in the triple digits. Libraries can often subsidize these costs slightly with standing order plan discounts, but if your library (like mine) buys extra copies to keep up with hold lists, you could be looking at spending hundreds of dollars on the latest bestseller. Downloadable costs are even more outrageous, averaging $60-95 per copy. The cheaper of these physical editions can be found at pretty comparable prices on the retail side of things and the more expensive can often be picked up at a good discount, maybe even 60% less than the library pays, but, like with print books, the more books a listener buys, the larger their investment. Using libraries to save money is not a secret, in fact, it’s probably our biggest selling point to get people to visit us and check out items. Checking out audiobooks, especially ones you’re not sure you’ll love and want to own, is an excellent way to help readers save money.

The other financial aspect to consider is one I’ve already touched upon: many users don’t have access to the devices necessary to listen to these digital-only audiobooks.  Public librarians know dozens, if not hundreds of patrons who frequent the library primarily because they don’t have a computer, smartphone, internet, or any combination of the three. We need to keep these users in mind when ordering for our collection. It’s far too easy to look at statistics like the ones I’ve been linking and decide to get ahead of the trend and buy only digital copies, but I want to remind libraries that we’re not retailers or publishers, we’re here to serve people, and by and large the people using libraries are not the ones paying for streaming access through Audible.

All of that said, my problem is not with digital audiobooks. I love them! I do keep CDs in my car, but I always have a digital title on my phone through Hoopla or Overdrive, which I play on bike rides, while working out, or cooking (I’m one of the aforementioned multi-taskers). No, my problem is with digital-only audiobooks and how they affect our ability to not only acquire them, but provide access to our patrons. I’ve already laid out some of the barriers of access digital has, so let’s look at the publishing side of things. It makes perfect sense when looking at the data for publishers to go digital and phase out CDs. The market is moving that way, younger customers are the priority, and honestly, digital is considerably cheaper to produce. You pay for the recording and editing, but you cut all production, retail, and shipping costs by cutting physical copies. To top execs at companies like Blackstone, RecordedBooks, and Books on Tape, this would be a no-brainer. The problem gets even worse with Amazon, whose Audible service holds exclusive rights to many popular titles, making it impossible for libraries to buy copies in CD or digital.

Audible isn’t the only publisher to do this, either. Even when working with one of our regular vendors, Books on Tape, I’ll often run into titles that are not only digital-only, but only in digital and only through the vendor’s website. That means we can’t buy these audiobooks on our existing platforms like Overdrive. While some libraries have the problem of offering too many similar e-services, LibraryJournal’s 2016 report shows that almost half of public libraries are limited to one platform, essentially making these popular and often requested audiobooks impossible to provide to our patrons.

On top of all this, the completist in me goes crazy when a publisher switches from CD to digital only in the middle of a series. This is becoming more and more common and yet every time I run into it, it still fills me with rage. Libraries have hooked readers with CDs and bought the first two, maybe even ten, in a series, and suddenly we can’t do anything. We’re sorry, but you can’t figure out what happens to your favorite characters. Go buy a smartphone and an Audible account if you can afford it, I guess? There’s nothing else we can do. These are the calls I hate making the most at my job.

What can we, as librarians and listeners, do to help provide access to digital exclusive audiobooks? First, get the word out. Let librarians, readers, listeners, everyone know why this is a problem. Far too often do people get trapped inside their own world and privilege and wonder why other people don’t just get an Audible account. Second, talk to the audiobook publishers and any vendors you use to acquire audiobooks. You will likely get the same canned answers I did, but the more of us who speak up, the more seriously they’ll take our complaints. Let them know our concerns and advocate for your patrons. Explain that not everyone has a compatible device, not everyone is technologically savvy, not every library can afford digital titles, not every title is available through reasonable paths, and, above all, not everyone is served by digital only titles. Remember that when something is marketed as “exclusive,” it often means exactly that: it is excluding somebody. It’s our job as librarians to try to include everybody.

What do you think? Put your thoughts in the comments or tweet me at @typesetjez. I’d love to hear what other librarians and audiobook listeners have to say about this or audiobooks in general.

Jez Layman is an Adult Services Librarian in the suburbs of Chicago. When she's not answering reference questions or helping job hunters, she's listening to audiobooks and dreaming up new programs for 20-30somethings.