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, March 22, 2018

Top 5 of 5 PLA Handouts: A Current Affair

Later today at PLA Kaite Stover is moderating the newest installment of the popular Top 5 of 5 series [click here for info on past ones]. Kaite has made the slides and handout available on her personal page. Click here or see below. 

This year's topics are: science, international fiction, diverse youth books, political issues and LGBTQ+

Here are the goals of this program, and really the entire series:
1: Have 5 go-to titles in each current event area to promote to readers2: Gain confidence in talking with patrons about fiction/nonfiction topics in the news that are on readers' radar3: Understand the appeal of current events areas for readers and respond professionally with appropriate suggested reading
Thank to Kaite for passing on so everyone, near and far, can learn.

Floundering at the desk when asked for a book you might not be familiar with? Get “go-to” lists of the latest and best books/authors for popular fiction, genre fiction, and nonfiction for leisure readers. RA experts will showcase hot topics trending in the news (science, international fiction, diversity in youth books, political issues, and LGBTQ+) and what frontline library staff should know about them: the top five books, up-and-coming authors/titles, and trends.

Thursday, March 22, 2018, 4 pm-5 pm

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2017 Foreword Indies Finalists Or a List You Can use to Add Independently Published Titles to Any Collection

Since 2005, Foreword Reviews has been handing out awards for the best independently published books. From this year’s press release announcing the finalists:

Traverse City, MI, March 20, 2018—As part of its mission to discover, review, and share the best books from university and independent publishers, Foreword Reviews is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2017 INDIES Book of the Year Awards. 
More than 2,000 entries spread across 68 genres were submitted for consideration. The list of finalists was determined by Foreword’s editorial team. Winners are now being decided by a panel of judges across the country, reflecting Foreword’s readership of booksellers and librarians. 
The complete list of finalists can be found at: 
“Choosing finalists for the INDIES is always the highlight of our year, but the job is very difficult due to the high quality of submissions,” said Victoria Sutherland, founder/publisher of Foreword Reviews. “Each new book award season proves again how independent publishers are the real innovators in the industry.”
Winners in each genre—along with Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword’s INDIE Publisher of the Year—will be announced June 15, 2018. 
As is mentioned above, you can use this link to see all of the finalists.

I would like to first talk about why this list is a great resource and then I will get to a few of my concerns about Foreword Reviews as a publication.

The positive. Foreword Reviews is one of the only places where we can find reviews of indie and self published titles in a wide variety of genres, fiction and nonfiction, and for all ages levels. Many of you need a published review from a trusted source in order to be allowed to add a title to your collections. Now throughout the year there are many reviews coming out, too many for the average library to keep up with, but this list of the finalists is a great way to weed out the cream of the crop.

With this link, they have made it super easy to see every single nominated title in one list with links to their review. You can also look these titles up on Goodreads to see what readers thought to help you make a decision if they are right for your collection. These are independent titles worth your time, with an official review, all put in one place. You have no more excuses to NOT add some independent titles to even the smallest library.

Looking through the list I saw a few books that I knew were good so I thought I would highlight those to prove my point. City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff is up in 2 categories-- Horror and Thriller. This is an intense, Chinese set ghost story. Also the Michael Bailey and Darren Speegle edited Adam’s Ladder up in the anthology category features a blockbuster list of authors, many of whose books you have in your collections already [click through to see]. I have read some of the stories and know they are good, plus I have read a few Bailey edited anthologies and he is talented. I always give anything he has edited a chance and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

The point is, off the top of my head, I knew something about 2 of these titles upon first glance. I went through again and notice a handful of others I had heard about. This list is solid and can be used both for collection development and booktalking [read the reviews to patrons-- it’s an instant book talk].

Now for the few problematic issues. First, the use of “Multiculutral” as a category is not ideal but I like that they are trying to give these books a boost. And LGBTQ is not a genre; within the frame of LGBTQ there are genres, but just being “gay” does not make a genre. I had more to say about this yesterday here.

But the biggest problem with Foreword Reviews is that they have a “pay to play” model where authors pay to get their book properly reviewed. Now to be fair, they are quite open and honest about this as you can see here, but this fact always keeps me a arm’s length from working with this publication.

I do however, highly advocate using it to help find books that readers will enjoy. We have nothing official to work with and many of you need something to help you sort through everything that is available, plus you need a justification for ordering a harder to procure title, so here you go. And again, if you cross reference these finalists with their Goodreads entries you will see that these titles have a lot of fans. That’s what we care about most, matching readers with books they would love. So get out there and order some independently published titles now that I have given you a curated resource of a manageable amount of titles.

And I highly advocate for ordering a bunch at the same time because then you can make a display out of it-- “Try one of these critically acclaimed independent reads.” They will fly off the shelf. And isn’t that our goal in the end.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Flashback to My 2013 Interview With Luis Alberto Urrea and Suggested Readalikes [and a mini-rant on diverse readalikes]

Yesterday's post where I talked about pairing your promotion of upcoming books with a backlist suggestion led me to thinking about other current releases and how I could help you promote both new and old easier. Back on March 6th, Luis Alberto Urrea's new novel, The House of Broken Angels, published with much [derserved] fanfare and press. 

I loved how during that week Urrea was everywhere, writing New York Times Op Eds, on FreshAir, and especially in all of our Chicago media [he teaches at UIC]. I am sure you had many requests for the book. While I loved this because I am a huge fan of Mr. Urrea's work [here's my review of a book I still think about and suggest all of the time, Into the Beautiful North], but I know first hand he is a wonderful person too.

How do I know? Because in 2013 I was asked to interview Mr Urrea for Fox Valley Reads. The details of the evening as well as more links to some of the planning documents are here and reposted at the end of this post.

Mr Urrea was amazing throughout this process. Not only did this event take place in Spanish and English, on two different days [I have a post here about how the Spanish interviewer and I worked together on this], but he also spent over an hour with me on the phone prior to the event so we could "get to know each other." He is smart, kind, and funny. And, I bet this comes as no shock, he is an amazing off-the-cuff storyteller.

While all of the marketing for The House of Broken Angels was happening, I kept flashing back to my interview with Urrea, and yesterday's post made me realize I should have reposted it for all of you too.

In keeping with the theme of using a new release to promote older material, take a look at this post from 2013.

But also, here is an updated diverse readalike list of authors for Urrea to help you provide pepole with books to read while they wait for The House of Broken Angels. First, you need to understand that while Urrea's plots focus heavily on the Mexican American immigrant experience, the reason his books have such a wide appeal is because they are about a duality of identity and being an outsider in general. So while a few of my titles and authors may be "Hispanic" not all of them are.

...Wait, now I need to do a mini rant for a second because that last sentence got me going....

Just because Urrea's books are "Mexican-American" in frame does not mean readers who like his books only want "Meixcan American" books. I HATE THIS. What readers love about Urrea is that he writes character centered stories with dramatic and bittersweet storylines, lyrical writing that is beautiful but still accessible, that heavily draw on the themes of identity and belonging. Yes for some the frame is intriguing, but not for everyone. Most lists with Urrea also have Sandra Cisneros too. Look, she's a good writer, but they ARE NOT THAT SIMILAR IN STYLE. You know why people put them together? Because they are Mexican. That is not helpful to anyone. We can open people up to a variety of authors from many walks of life who write similarly to Urrea who aren't Mexican American. It's not that radical people. It's what we already do for white writers.

....Okay, rant done, back to your regularly scheduled post...

Second, as I have been saying constantly these days- truly diverse lists don't only have POC or LGBTQIA authors, they have a sampling of everyone. You can see my recent updated Stephen King diverse readalike author list for more on that.

So here is a great list of other authors who come from a variety of backgrounds but like Urrea write character centered stories with dramatic and bittersweet storylines, lyrical writing that is beautiful but still accessible, that heavily draw on the themes of identity and belonging:

  • Junot Diaz
  • Louise Erdrich
  • Jennifer Clement
  • Carol Rifka Brunt
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Toni Morrison
  • Colson Whitehead
  • Mohsin Hamid
  • Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Cristina Henriquez



Luis Alberto Urrea and Me: A Recap with Pictures!

Well last night went great.  We had a nice crowd and I think people enjoyed it. As you can see I have a few pictures spread throughout this post, but for more pictures go to the Fox Valley Reads Facebook page.

As a reminder, here are the questions I was planning to ask Luis. I got to most of them.

Now here are some thoughts from me on what he said:

  • Luis loves libraries and he loves visiting book groups.  He encouraged everyone to contact him about either visiting your book group in person or over Skype.  He estimates he has participated in at least 70 book clubs already and a man invited him to their Books and Guns book club in November.  He had his wife [who was in the audience] checking his schedule to see if he was available.  
  • We began with Luis describing his early life as a poor kid living in Tijuana with an East Coast mother and a Mexican father.  Besides his funny and poignant impersonations of his parents, he talked about his first stabs at writing, his mother "publishing" his first book [he was the best selling author of his kitchen], and how he never thought a kid from his world could be a published author.
  • His mom reading him Mark Twain is what really opened his eyes to literature and made him want to be a writer.
  • Ursula Le Guin was his first big supporter and she was one of the first people to buy one of his pieces.
  • We talked at length about the real people he based most of the characters off of.
    • Aunt Irma is a real person.  It was his aunt.  She was the Mexican bowling champ.  And if you have read the book, the fight about Yul Brenner really happened.
    • The Mexican Biker who falls for Vampy...he's a real guy from Aurora!
    • Atomico is based on his cousin.
    • Nayeli is a real girl.  In fact, you can listen to more from Luis and Nayeli on this episode of This American Life from 2003.  Luis is in the process of entertaining offers to turn Into the Beautiful North into a movie. He has always promised Nayeli a cut of the money he would get from a movie version.  He really hopes that happens.
    • Mary Jo the librarian, who tragically passed while working at the library before the book was written, was a real librarian in Kankakee.  Her family is grateful that she now will spend eternity on library shelves.  Luis talked about a beautiful memorial to her that he participated in.
  • That reminds me.  I did ask the question, "Why Kankakaee?" Luis shared his experiences in that city.  Most of what he said was also recounted in the New York Times by him here.  Luis has kept up his affiliation with the community and really feels it is a model city for working with the immigrant community.
  • Much as I said in my review of Into the Beautiful North, Luis talked a lot about how he wanted to take a break from the heavy tomes he had been writing, and instead write a book that "made him laugh everyday as he was working on it," but still bore witness [his biggest drive as a writer] and was thought provoking.  He is honored that the book has had such "legs."  As he said most books are lucky to last 6 weeks.  The Devil's Highway is going on its 10th Anniversary and will have a new edition to honor that out next year, with new text. He said that every time something tragic or newsworthy happens on the border, the book's sales increase.  And now with Into the Beautiful North being an official NEA Big Read approved book, it's is selling well now, a few years after its publication.
  • We talked about the ending and how the entire story is really about Nayeli's hero's quest to become a samurai warrior in her own right.  Luis said that he saw the book's ending not as abrupt, but as the end of Nayeli's journey to become the hero.  The audience [and I] agreed with him.  It is a powerful, epic hero's quest story even without knowing if she was successful in beating out the banditos. In fact, it is more about the quest because of the ending.   
  • We did end the discussion of the book with my question about the unique set up of the book and it's subversive way of tackling the immigration issue.  I commented on how I thought the book would make anyone, from the right or the left, question how they feel about this complex issue.  He shared stories of visiting the border and the "wall," which by the way, is only 600 miles on an over 2,000 mile border, and you can simply walk around it at its end. He talked about the border jumpers and board patrol agents who both love his books.  He also expressed hope that there can be a resolution to this problem.  He thought we were moving in the right direction but then 9/11 put us in reverse.  He also mentioned that we have to solve the drug problems first.  Arms are going into Mexico and drugs are coming out all illegally and it is making everything worse. There is no easy answer, but he is confident there is an answer. He hopes to help to be part of the solution.
  • He ended the night by talking about much of what he is currently working on.  He also told a poignant story about researching his mother's past as a Red Cross Doughnut Dolly on the front lines of WWII and finding pictures of her in a book.  He is working on a historical fiction novel to honor these brave but forgotten women.  He said it will freak out reviewers and fans because there will not be "a single Mexican in the book," but rather he is bearing witness to his American roots.
Overall, he was just a wonderful storyteller who cares passionately about using his work to speak for those who have been forgotten or do not have a platform to speak for themselves.  He is a honorable, good man, but he is also charming and funny.  A rare breed.  If you ever get a chance to see Luis in person, go.

Thank you to Fox Valley Reads for putting on a great program and for allowing me to be a part of it.
Some of the wonderful staff who made the
event possible [with Luis].

Monday, March 19, 2018

What I’m Reading: The Crossing [Review With a Bonus RA Pro-tip]

Today I have a quick review of a book that will be easy to hand sell to a wide range of readers, but it doesn’t come out until May. Not to fear, I have a way to make this wait work for you. You can place this book on order now, talk it up to readers, and then place holds while handing them Mott’s previous novel, The Returned to read while they wait. This gets you the circulation of a winning backlist title both you and your patrons have probably forgotten about AND gets them excited about something new.

Which leads to my bonus RA Pro-tip for today: don’t forget how much patrons love knowing about a new title before it comes out AND having a hold placed for them so that when it does come out, it simply appears for them. Patrons LOVE this, but only as long as they have things to read while they wait. This is our bread and butter-- giving them great backlist suggestions to keep them happily reading while we also scope out brand new ones for them. Keeping them on a steady diet of books they are enjoying while “surprising”them with new reads, this is how we build a base of library advocates.

They best thing is that success here is guaranteed. Why? Because we will never run out of backlist titles, one that are sitting in the stacks and are great reads if just someone told a patron to try them. On top of that, new titles come out every week. Both sides of the equation are taken care of. Everyone is a winner.

So let’s get started today with THE CROSSING by Jason Mott

The Crossing.

Mott, Jason (author).
May 2018. 336p. Park Row, hardcover, $26.99  (9780778330738)
First published March 15, 2018 (Booklist).

Mott follows up on the success of The Returned with a thoughtful and quiet tale of a slowly approaching apocalypse. Virginia and Tommy, 17 year old twins, orphans since age five, live in an alternate present to our own where “The Disease” has been raging for ten years, killing the old by stopping them from ever waking up, spreading into younger victims with each passing year, while the young are being sacrificed to the world war which has broken out in the ensuing chaos. Soon most of humanity will be dead, but there is one last hope- sending survivors on a probe to Europa, a distant moon. Tommy and Virginia use the launch and Tommy’s draft letter, as an excuse to run away and head out for Cape Canaveral. Told mostly through Virginia’s point of view, with some beautiful interspersed vignettes from “Elsewhere,” short pieces of others living and dying in this world, we quickly learn that Virginia is special, born with an ability to remember every single thing she has ever read, heard, or experienced. Her gift is both a blessing and a curse, and in fact, it is this conflict, not the action and adventure of the twin’s journey from Oklahoma to Florida which is the crux of this story. As a result The Crossing is a character centered, dystopian tale with a strong coming of age theme. Mott grabs readers from the beginning with an original set up and then with a slow but steady burn, drags readers into an atmospheric and unsettling world, not too dissimilar from their own. Fans of other contemplative dystopian novels with strong female protagonists such as The Reapers Are the Angels by Bell or The Age of Miracles by Walker will be eager to give this one a try.

YA Statement: Teens will enjoy Tommy and Virginia's coming age story as they navigate the present and explore their shared past. The dystopian setting, interesting frame, and thoughtful contemplation of the power and burden of memory will also draw in younger readers.
Further Appeal: I think the most supersizing thing here is that while the plot sounds like a fairly standard dystopian story, it really isn’t. Virginia’s “gift” is the key here. It adds a level of interest and originality to this story that was surprising. It makes her very complicated too, which I loved. She carries a great burden and that means we cannot walkways predict how she will act.

The coming of age theme, the sf/disease storyline and the sinking feeling that this world is not too different from the one we lie in now are also tropes that will draw readers in.

Three Words That Describe this Book: character centered, dystopian, original frame

Readalikes: Any dystopian tales where the characters are more important than the action will appeal here, especially those written for an adult audience but with a YA crossover appeal. I gave two examples in the review above [links lead to my reviews with even more readalikes], but I would also look to any Alex Award winners with a speculative frame as a great readalike option here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

All About Books Podcast Featuring Me

Last month while I was in Nebraska to do a training, I made a trip out to Lincoln to the studios of NET, Nebraska’s PBS and NPR Stations. I was invited as a guest on the show All About Books, a weekly broadcast and podcast hosted by Pat Leach from the Lincoln City Libraries.

From the All About Books website:
Going far beyond book reviews, we invite people passionate about books and reading to give their personal stories and insights into the larger world of words and ideas.
Pat asked me to come prepared to talk about one specific book and then we chatted about RA Service and how I got to be a “horror” expert. Pat was especially excited for me to talk about RA Service because she was sending some people to my training and she was hoping that when the community heard this episode [a few weeks after the training] they would be excited about RA and would come in and ask for help with their leisure reading needs.

Click here to listen
Here is the link to my appearance where I talk about In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

But more importantly, I wanted to promote All About Books in general. This program has been on the air for decades, airing across the state. I love that a librarian is the host. It is a place where book conversations happen out in the world, curated by a librarian. What a fantastic resource. And the people who come in are from all walks of life, all ages, and suggest every kind of book you would imagine.

The site also has bonus material by area professors. For example, here is a link to one on Graphic Novels which leads to both an interview with Richard Graham, Associate Professor of Media Studies, and an annotated list.

And now I leave you with this awesome rabbit hole to go down. Click here for the archives and spend your day listening to hundreds of people talking about books! [What do you think I have been doing all morning?]

But seriously, when I train people to booktalk, I stress how important the listener is in the experience. We need to practice talking about books by focusing on the feel of the book, not the plot, but we also need to practice listening to people talk about books. How do our patrons describe books and what things do they focus on when they are telling us what they like?

You can actually learn more about how to help readers by listening to book talks by others than you can by giving hundreds yourself. Why? Because when we listen to others, we understand what they want to know about the books we are suggesting.

So while I am promoting All About Books today because I was on, I want to use it as a reminder that listening is as important as talking in our work. I have a much longer post on this topic from my Call to Action Series entitled, “LISTEN!" here for those of you who want more from me on this topic.

Now I’m off to do more listening.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Barbara Hoffert’s PLA 2018 Adult Galley Roundup

I will not be at PLA from March 20-24 because I leave on a big trip with my family on 3/25 [I will be at ALA in June though]. This is often a problem for me as I would love to attend every PLA, but I only have a few years left when my kids are on the same Spring Break schedule and we can easily use that time to be together, just the four of us. Soon though, they will be in college and you will all be sick of me showing up at every conference.

However, I know I am not alone. Many of us, for a wide variety of reasons want to be in Philly for PLA, but cannot be there. One of the best things about PLA is learning about all of the upcoming new books because everything being promoted at the entire conference is only for us....the public library worker.

Thankfully, Barbara Hoffert, from Library Journal, is helping everyone on that front, whether we can make it there or not with this roundup of the hottest adult titles being promoted at the conference.

Now, if you are not there in person, you can’t use her guide to grab physical copies of these titles, but you can go on over to Edelweiss or NetGalley and grab an eARC for many of them. Here is how courtesy of LibraryReads.

Also, last year, I wrote this post on how to make lists of upcoming titles start working for you immediately, even if the books aren’t out for months, even if you don’t have a copy at all. Read my post first and then look at the Galley Guide. Then be prepared to be busy.

Don’t underestimate how good a resource this Galley Guide is for those of us at home.

Finally, if anyone out there goes to a really great program at PLA and wants to write up a summary for me, let me know. I am always looking for reports on great programs that can help my readers improve their skills.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why Readers’ Advisory Matters via Molly Wetta

As I mentioned in this post earlier this week when congratulating and celebrating Robin Bradford for being named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker:
This is also one of the few times that the excellent work done by library workers for leisure readers is acknowledged as important enough to be deemed at “Mover & Shaker” level. No, Robin is not the only one who focuses on providing “fun” items to be honored ever, but it is important to note that the work she does, that all of you reading this do, is usually held to a lower standard of importance in the greater library world. This is so counter intuitive though because what we do is at the heart of the entire library.
I have been telling you why RA matters for over 10 years. Seeing friends like Robin being honored makes me hopeful that helping Adult find things for fun through the public library will be valued as the essential service it is.

As I said on Twitter here:

In this very brief thread and the post celebrating Robin, I am trying to make the larger world argument for why RA matters. However, recently, my colleague Molly Wetta made this argument more eloquently than I just have with this post on her blog, “Why Readers’ Advisory Maters.” I asked her if I could share her wisdom with all of you. She agreed.

Molly posted this argument as part of a staff training for basic RA skills she was tasked to do at her library. While Part 2  gets more into the nitty gritty of providing RA, this first piece, as Molly writes is essential:
 "Before diving into training and spending time honing your readers’ advisory skills, it’s important to establish why this is even something that’s needed and why libraries should be in the business of readers’ advisory."
Molly lays out 7 reasons as to why RA matters and every single one is vital to the work we do at libraries.  Read her post. Pass it on, especially to your administrators. Make helping adult find items that they want for FUN a key part of your library service. As Molly explains, there are real reasons beyond just being the matchmaker between all the books and the readers. Reading has some huge benefits for the people who engage in this activity, and those benefits extrapolate out into society as a whole.

Click here to read Molly’s post right now, and start using her arguments to advocate for the important work we do. Don’t let others belittle you anymore.

Thank you to Molly for sharing her arguments with us. And thank you to everyone out there who is advocating for RA service. We are helping to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Time Travels to Australia

For the second time in my life I get to time travel later today. How? Well, I will be opening the Readers’ Advisory Annual Conference for New South Wales, Australia, and while I am presenting at 5:30pm on March 13, 2018 here in Chicago, I will be viewed LIVE at 9:30 am on March 14, 2018 in Australia.  Time travel baby!

This year’s conference is a “Back to Basics” theme.  I will be opening the session with my signature RA for All presentation which follows my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service. You can access it with this link.

But today there is news for all of my readers [besides the fact that I get to time travel]. This presentation effects every one of you all over the world. Later in the day, Duncan Smith will be at the conference in person to work with the attendees on using NoveList to help readers.

And that is why this presentation is news for everyone. NoveList is expanding throughout Australia and as a result, they are beefing up their Australian author content for everyone.

You may have already noticed but they have included more Canadian content recently too.

In both cases, NoveList has partnered with the largest databases of the country they are working with to gain access to reviews and content from the native sources.

Opening up American library workers to more international authors is vital. International fiction is very popular right now. Now, the countries in questions are majority English speaking, but since we have to guarantee that the books will be available in English this makes sense. However, both Australia and Canada have a lot of indigenous literature, and they both have translations of books we may not have access to here in America. Putting them in NoveList will increase demand and hopefully trigger more American editions of all of these titles. That being said, Amazon does offer .ca and .au options that we can order from if our patrons want the book.

The overall point here is that NoveList’s expansion will help us all learn about different and more diverse titles. Yay.

I can’t wait to kick off the day of learning for the live attendees. “See" some of you today/tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Robin Bradford is a Mover & Shaker!

Today LJ started unveiling their 2018 Movers & Shakers with the Advocates and a friend of RA for All, heck a friend of all of us who do RA or Collection Development, especially this of us who advocate for the place of genre, indie publishers, and self publisheed books, and anyone who has fought for diverse books needs to rejoice because Robin Bradford is on the list!

Robin has been the main voice for ALL of these issues for years, so many years in fact, I have no idea why it took so long for her to be acknowledged.  Click here or see below for specifics.

This is also one of the few times that the excellent work done by library workers for leisure readers is acknowledged as important enough to be deemed at “Mover & Shaker” level. No, Robin is not the only one who focuses on providing “fun” items to be honored ever, but it is important to note that the work she does, that all of you reading this do, is usually held to a lower standard of importance in the greater library world. This is so counter intuitive though because what we do is at the heart of the entire library.

Robin is one of our most vocal advocates and I cannot be happier for my friend and also, for all of us who fight the same fight Robin does, but on a smaller scale. Let’s keep up the conversation about diverse books, let’s keep defending genre as worthy, and let’s remember to provide access to titles NOT only by the Big 5 in our collections. Let’s show the library establishment how much “readers” still matter.

All week the Movers & Shakers will be released with this link by category. Check in daily to see everyone else, but I can’t imagine there will be someone more in synch with what all of you are doing on a day to day basis.

Congratulations Robin!

Robin Bradford


Collection Development Librarian, Timberland Regional Library, Tumwater, WA


JD, Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, 2008; MSLS, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2000


Photo by Douglas Gritzmacher


Barrier Breaker

Whether she is tweeting her latest collection find, speaking to the New York Times about diversity in romance (“A Genre of Romance, Not Diversity,” 10/10/17), presenting at professional conferences, or pushing libraries to purchase self-published (indie) books, collection development librarian Robin Bradford constantly campaigns for readers’ needs. “You never know when someone will actually hear you,” Bradford says. “So I try to advocate for things as often as possible, whether that is romance books, or diverse books, or indie books, or all of the above.”
Bradford is a national leader in an ongoing conversation aimed at raising awareness about diverse books, indie books, and respecting readers of romance and other genres. She presents at major conferences including the American Library Association, BookExpo, Bouchercon World Mystery Fiction Convention, Romance Writers of America (RWA), and RT Booklovers. In 2016, Bradford was named the RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year. She has twice judged LJ’s SELF-e contest, writes reviews for recently launched review publication Indie Picks, and has contributed to LJ.
Bradford began to purchase self-published books for libraries before the indie explosion. “Seeking out indie books is important…because that is where a lot of [authors] shut out of traditional publishing are raising their voices,” Bradford says. “[We need] authors from all backgrounds to be published so that we can hear stories from a lot of perspectives [and] interact with people across all walks of life.”
When it comes to indie titles, Bradford says many libraries have let patrons take the lead in finding great books that are self-published. “It’s time [librarians] got back in the game and started discovering indie books that fit their collections,” she says.
Most recently, Bradford has helped inform Timberland library staff about multicast GraphicAudio Books on CD, so staff will be better able to connect readers to what they love across genres and formats. For example, she says, a patron with an appetite for Westerns might enjoy a multicast audiobook or indie Western film released to DVD. This level of readers’ advisory goes beyond the entry level and breaks “barriers to [customers] finding their next great book,” she says.
Bradford’s advocacy extends to mentoring newer librarians, “just as more experienced librarians helped me when I first got started,” she says, “and to increasing diversity in librarianship itself.”

Friday, March 9, 2018

Library Reads: April 2018

Yesterday was Library Reads day Library Reads Day means three 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.

And remember, every single one of you can and should be suggesting titles, especially those by marginalized voices. For example. this month I see Swanson and Wolitzer on the list. Great books to be sure, but they will have plenty of press. Instead, let’s find some titles that don’t get the recognition and show the publishers that we want these POC titles by promoting them ourselves. If we get our patrons excited about less mainstream titles before they come out, the publishers have to pay attention. 

We have more power than you think. Your choices matter. I often say this when I visit libraries in person, but it bears repeating here today-- By voting for a title for Library Reads you are not proclaiming to the world that it is THE BEST book you ever read. You might even personally enjoy the mainstream title more, but that doesn’t matter. You are not voting for your personal favorite book. Use your vote to boost a title that is wonderful but may not have as a good a chance to stand out from the crowd without your help. That is the point of this venture. No one will hold you to this being your all time favorite book. [People actually worry about this; they have told me.]

Please also reconsider how you vote. Many of you have told me that you vote for the “Big” name titles and the smaller ones. THIS DOES NOT HELP. You are simply adding to the big vote getters total and diluting your vote for the diverse title. If every single one of my readers laid off of voting for the more mainstream titles for 1 month and instead voted for a more diverse title, many of those mainstream titles would still get in, but maybe a few more marginalized voices would too. Can we try it?

Click here to for the very easy to follow directions on how to participate. You get access to unlimited eARCs.

April 2018 LibraryReads


by Madeline Miller

Published: 4/10/2018
by Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316556347
Circe follows the banished witch daughter of the Titans as she practices her powers for an inevitable conflict with one of Olympus’s most vindictive gods. I found myself pondering motherhood, mortality, and feminism. For readers of historical and mythological drama or anyone who loves a strong female lead.
McKelle George, Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake, UT

Other People’s Houses

by Abbi Waxman

Published: 4/3/2018 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399587924
“The story follows a stay-at-home mom. There is a satisfying rhythm to the book. Crazy things happen, and the next day the kids have to get to school and soccer practice. The shifting point of view, from the mother to various people living in the town is successful in imparting a snarky tone, bringing to life the gossipy small town setting.”
Claire Sherman, Clearwater Countryside Library, Clearwater, FL

All the Beautiful Lies: A Novel

by Peter Swanson

Published: 4/3/2018 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062427052
“The latest from psychological thriller master Swanson is a whirlpool of darkness, taboos, and secrets. When his father commits suicide, Harry Ackerson returns home to Maine. Harry finds more questions than answers as he faces his attractive young stepmother, the attentions of a seductive stranger, and the many questions posed by the local investigators.”
Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY

How to Be Safe: A Novel

by Tom McAllister

Published: 4/3/2018 by Liveright
ISBN: 9781631494130
“This novel uses fiction as a tool to show how guns and violence are affecting contemporary society. Anna’s fictional experiences illustrate the real-life hypocrisy, lack of leadership, and fear of expressing controversial opinions. Great fiction for readers who tend to stay in the nonfiction lane.”
Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Library, Lake Mills, WI

Then She Was Gone: A Novel

by Lisa Jewell

Published: 4/17/2018 by Atria Books
ISBN: 9781501154645
“Part psychological fiction, part ghost story, both tragic and uplifting. A decade after the disappearance of her teenage daughter, Laurel Mack meets a charming single father with two daughters, the youngest of whom reminds Laurel deeply of her lost daughter Elle, and she becomes obsessed with her unanswered questions.”
Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT 

Unbury Carol: A Novel

by Josh Malerman

Published: 4/10/2018 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9780399180163
“This horror novel, set in the Old West, is creepy, atmospheric, and suspenseful. A husband has nefarious plans for his comatose wife Carol. James Moxie, a legendary outlaw, sets off on The Trail to save her. Hot on James’ tail is a sinister hit man with a thirst for murder-by-fire and a supernatural entity, Rot, who wants to collect Carol.”
Sonia Reppe, Stickney-Forest View Public Library, Stickney, IL 

The Female Persuasion: A Novel

by Meg Wolitzer

Published: 4/3/2018 by Riverhead Books
ISBN: 9781594488405
“A complex coming of age story. A college student finds herself transformed by her experience with a renowned feminist and activist in the center of the women’s movement. This is a story of women finding their way and making mistakes in the world of men. This is a novel that makes you feel and think in equal measures.”
Chris Markley, Hawkins County Libraries, Rogersville, TN 

You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories

by Curtis Sittenfeld
Published: 4/24/2018 by Random House
ISBN: 9780399592867

“A collection of ten short stories from the author of Eligible. Literary fiction with young adult appeal. Well-developed characters in fascinating circumstances. Poignant, timely, sad, funny, and cohesive. Sittenfeld shows her craft in a new form.”
Leanne Milliman, Charlevoix Public Library, Charlevoix, MI 

My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel

by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Published: 4/3/2018 by Quirk Books
ISBN: 9781683690139
“A choose-your-own-adventure romance with Jane Austen flair. You are a spirited but penniless heroine in eighteenth-century society and courtship season has begun. Go!”
Victoria Catron, Neva Lomason Memorial Library,
Carrollton, GA 

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Published: 4/24/2018 by Crown
ISBN: 9780451495327
“Wamariya has written a heartbreaking account of her survival of the Rwandan genocide. In 1994, she and her sister fled Rwanda and spent the next six years migrating through Africa, looking for a safe haven. Told in alternating chapters, between her harrowing escape and her arrival in the US as a refugee.”
Janet Kowal, Connetquot Public Library, Bohemia, NY

Thursday, March 8, 2018

RA for All Virtual Roadshow: 2018 RA and Collection Development Trends Webinar for PCI

This year instead of doing a year end wrap up webinar, I switched gears and created a “What’s To Come” webinar instead. Both types of programs have a short shelf life, but I felt like it was more valuable to spend my time prepping you all for what is coming rather than focusing on what we already went through.

I debuted this program in a 90 minute version for RAILS here.

Today will be the final time I give this program, and I have shortened it to 60 minutes. Basically, I went through and reassessed what is the most important information and kept that.

This program not only highlights some of the most important trends in RA and CD but also, I go into detail on how to stay on top of trends all year long. Heck, if I can do it as a 42 year old suburban white lady, you can do it too.

While this webinar will run live from 2-3pm eastern today, PCI does provide archive access for all of their webinars.  Click here for details.

You can click here for the slide access for this afternoon’s webinar and here for the handout which contains all of the links.

Click Here for Slides Access

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Your Annual Reminder-- The Tournament of Books Starts Today!

This is your annual reminder that the Tournament of Books is beginning today. Every year I repost my explanations as to why it is a fun and valuable RA resource. This is not your average book award and not only because it is a battle between the books as judged by other writers using a bracket system.

With ToB we also get the most diverse list of “best books” you will see anywhere, both diverse in authorship and genre. With ToB you not only learn about great books and why they are wonderful, but you also learn about the judges themselves, also a very diverse group of people throughout the publishing industry.

Each “battle” has a full write up which gets to the heart of the two books’ appeal and structure. These essays give us valuable information on who would like the book and why. Readalikes are also often mentioned.

Oh and the comments. The readers who follow along religiously and have entire discussions about each pairing of books for pages and pages are THE BEST. Following just the comments is like reading a novel itself.

And don’t forget the back list. 13 previous years of backlist tourneys to be exact. Each with their own full bank of the above mentioned information and more! Every single page of ToB has the links to every past year [bottom right].

There is plenty here to make a display for “March Madness,” and The Morning News did all the work for you. You can even print out a bracket for your displays.

Click here for every ToB post on RA for All or see below for last year’s.

Make sure to stop by the ToB site daily for the next 2 weeks to see what’s going on. Also please consider supporting their sponsor, Field Notes. I not only visited, but I also placed an order. [Side note, as the mom of 2 lefties, I highly recommend their lefty notebooks. My kids love them.]


MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

Fill Out Your Brackets....Book Brackets: ToB XIII Is in Full Swing

Many of you are spending this morning signing up for NCAA basketball brackets and contemplating your choices between schools you have never heard of let alone knew they had a basketball team that was any good. [I’m looking at you Winthrop.]

Seriously though, even people who never watch any sports get in on the fun of “March Madness.” My husband loves to tell the story of his non-sports watching friend who in college filled out his bracket and chose the winners based on whose mascot would defeat whom. He won the whole thing by the way. So truly, anyone and everyone can do this.

Now, I am all for filling out a basketball bracket. It is tons of fun and gives everyone a rooting interest in the tourney, but people we are book experts. Thankfully for 13 years, the folks over at The Morning News have been running the Tournament of Books and it is amazing!

Click here to see this year’s tournament [currently on day 4] and to have easy access to the previous 12 years of tourneys. But first, read below where I have re-posted my comments from last year on why I love the ToB and how to use it as a resource. Yes it is fun AND can help you do your job better.

I would also like to point out that ToB is one of the most diverse best books discussions- both in the diversity of the authors and in the inclusion of multiple genres. And, it has been that way for 13 years; they are not bandwagon jumpers on this issue; they have led by example for over a decade.

This is a hotly contested tournament and conversation between the books and the book lovers. You should follow along both because it will help you to help readers and because as a book lover, this is your big time “bracketology."

Maybe when your friend sends you that invite for the NCAA bracket, you can send them the link to ToB.

And if you need help with your basketball brackets, just do what all of us here in Chicagoland are doing....pick Northwestern.



Today marks the start of the 2016 Morning News Tournament of Books.  The 12th annual! What is ToB?  It is what is sounds like-- a March Madness style tourney but with books battling it out. 

However, it is also  so much more.  

Back in 2014, I wrote a post entitled “Why Your Should Follow The Tournament of Books: A RA Perspective” that explains that “so much more” part a bit better. From that post:
“...if you are a fan of reading...anything...for will love following the ToB. I promise.  If I am wrong, you are a liar and you don’t love reading as much as you think you do. 
Each day they have 2 books from the previous year, so in this case 2013, squaring off in a March Madness bracket style, so that the titles get narrowed down to 1 final winner.  The final match is judged by all of the judges for fairness.  Click here to see the entire 2013 ToB IX. 
There is a judge, normally themselves an award winning author, who writes a long commentary on how the two book stack up against one and other.  Each official judge’s commentary and ruling is then followed by a commentary on that specific match and how it played out by The Morning News editors, Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner.
Here’s why this process is so great for you as a reader.  First, these books are not judged in a vacuum.   All of the books in the tourney have already been through that process and have been determined among the best books of the previous year.  Reading another author’s take on how a specific book fairs when paired with another specific book is fascinating.  Is it unfair? Probably, yes.  Depending on what you are against and by whom it is being judged, both of those factors can help predetermine the outcome. 
But, is it fun? Heck yeah.  As a book lover and reader, I simply adore reading the judge’s commentaries themselves.  Because the matches are judged by award winning authors, I often feel like the commentary they provide to pick a winner reads like a short story in and of itself. Also, since it is so arbitrary, the entire thing both validates and satirizes the awards process-- simultaneously.  I love that too. 
And Kevin and John playing the part of the “regular reader” is great for placing the match within the context of the entire tourney and the larger literary world.
So even if you are not a traditional literary fiction fan, I highly suggest you follow the ToB because doing so is like reading a novel about the best novels of 2013. It is the most fun year in a review you will even experience. 
I even think it is worth going back and re-reading the commentaries from past years.  Why? You will find many good backlist options for your patrons.  And, because the commentaries are so well done, you will gather great appeal information about the titles, making it easier to book talk them to your readers.  And, with older titles, there is sure to be a few lurking in the stacks. 
Wow, that was a lot of “Ands.”  But seriously, the ToB, all 10 years of it, is a gold mine of fabulous reading suggestions, with annotations written for you by other awesome authors.  This is almost too easy!  So start using the ToB as your new RA tool, and keep using it all year long."

Yes, as a book lover, following the ToB is fun. You can root for your favorites. You can follow the commentaries. You can post your own comments.  [Speaking of the comments, side note, the comments are also very rich with useful RA material. There is almost an entire separate tourney going on in the comments. So at least read them, if not participate yourself.]

But the ToB is, as I said 2 years ago, an awesome RA tool.  I regularly use the ToB websites from all previous 11 years to help readers.

Try it for yourself.  Click here for the introduction post to this year’s contest, which includes a run down of what to expect. From that link you can access the entire tournament for this year and every single past year.

Enjoy the tourney for yourself, but don’t forget to also use it to help your readers find their next great read.