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 including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My Favorite Resources for My Least Favorite Genre And Why I Love Them [Pun Intended]

Later today I will be attending and live tweeting this ARRT Program:

Click here for details

I have been privy to some of the planning that is going into this panel. It is going to be an in-depth discussion about the genre from the perspective of the writers, editors, and reviewers but it will also include asking the panelists to consider themselves as readers and Romance fans. There will be discussions about trends in the genre including the HEA requirement and trope discussions. It is going to be great.

But I also know many of you cannot attend and, as of now, ARRT does not offer taping or recording of our programs [it is in discussion, but understand we are an all volunteer group and this requires a lot of moving parts], but don't worry, I have you covered. For a wrap-up, you can look at the #ARRTReads thread or just wait until Thursday when I will post general thoughts, links, and the entire thread which will be accessible to all, no need to have a Twitter account.

But now onto today's topic-- Romance Resource. It is no secret that Romance is my least favorite genre to read for fun. However, I am also very vocal about the fact that Romance readers are my absolute favorite readers to help. Why? Because, one, romance readers know what they like and why, and two, they are not afraid to tell me all about it.

I also really enjoy learning about my least favorite genres from the genres' biggest fans. In general, this is good advice for all of you. You will enjoy learning about a genre you don't enjoy so much more by listening to and reading the work of its fans. They will give you the genre's best version of itself from its ideal reader.

I spend a lot of time reading romance resources and reviews, rather than the books themselves. As a result, I end up getting so much more insight into Romance. Think about it. Instead of forcing myself to read a few Romance novels a year, I read articles and review by those who LOVE romance [again, pun intended]. I get myself excited about the books and I learn about the genre in general. I then share that enthusiasm and knowledge  with readers without letting my personal feelings get in the way.

This will work for any genre, but you have to put in some work. I spend about the amount of time it would take me to listen to 2 romance novels researching the genre-- every year. Now it is not all in one day, but rather sprinkled out over the course of a year. And sometimes, like today, I get 2 straight hours right from the experts themselves.

But you can't always be at a Romance panel 20 minutes from your house. So, here is my list of my favorite FREE romance resources [in no particular order] that I can access at any time, and what I like most about them:
  • Romance Writers of America: This is where I go for award lists, industry statistics, and general state of the genre info.
  • All About Romance: Reviews-- especially the Power Search! I can search by subgenre and heat level all in one place. And I can read those choices to the patron and let them decide the terms we are using as we search. I also love that there is a "varies" option for heat level.
  • Smart Bitches, Trashy Books: I use this for everything. It is where I go to learn more about the genre because there are so many features, articles, reviews, even podcast episodes. I often spend a few days a year just going down the SBTB rabbit hole, reading everything I can get my   eyes and ears on.
  • The Ripped Bodice: The most well known Romance books store in America. See what is selling well. See who is on tour [maybe they can come to your library if there are coming near your town]. Read their annual Diversity Report
  • The ARRT Romance Genre Study: Although it is still in process, the genre study has created a wonderful resource-- the assignment reading lists, discussion notes and lecture slides. And they are available to all for free.
There are many more places to go for Romance info, but these five offer, in my opinion, a great cross section of points of view of the genre. When I use these resources, I get as broad a picture as possible of a genre millions love, even if I am not a personal fan.

Also don't forget to look for my report on today's great program coming on Thursday [I'm on location training all day tomorrow]. It will give you yet another resource.

Monday, March 18, 2019

What I'm Reading: The Dark Game

After having 3 reviews in the last issue of Booklist, I only have 1 in this issue, but I am not kidding here, this one is going to be a crossover hit as I will explain below. This is for ALL public library collections. If you have readers of popular fiction you need this book. And that is all of you. I am not exaggerating. 

As usual below you can find my draft review [which is longer than the published one], further appeal insight to make it easier for you to book talk this title, and more readalikes.

Janz, Jonathan (author).
Apr. 2019. 304p. Flame Tree, $24.95 (9781787581876); paper, $14.95 (9781787581852)First published March 15, 2019 (Booklist).
In his latest pulp horror gem, reminiscent of early Stephen King, Janz uses a well mined genre trope, the secluded writers’ retreat, yet manages to craft it into something unique, thought provoking, and gloriously twisted. From the very first line, readers are alerted to the fact that they are in for a terrifying ride where nothing is as it seems, as we are told, “Lucy [was]...unaware she was entering the nightmarish plot of a madman instead of a writers retreat.” We are introduced to ten contestants and internationally regaled bestselling author Roderick Wells, who is hosting these aspiring authors for a contest where only one winner will emerge to a life of fame and fortune. But these authors can have no contact with the outside world, couldn’t tell a soul where they were going, and, as we were warned from the start, their lives may be at stake. Not only is Wells sinister, but as we readers learn, each contestant is also harboring a sinful secret. The characters rule this story. It is through their unease with the situation, their guilt with their own past transgressions, and their ruthless desire to be famous and eliminate the competition at all costs, that the tension builds, relentlessly and violently. Along the way, Janz introduces just the right amount of supernatural monsters, but with a brillant literary twist, bringing the horror to a climax, one that will have readers worried about all of the books they read for years to come, not just this one. This novel is a treat for horror fans, yes, but it also perfect for fans of any kind of popular fiction as it manages to both scare and comment on the joy a great read can bring to the right reader. Many will be drawn this fast paced thriller from readers who love the pulp horror of Brian Keene, the dark twists of intense psychological thrillers by Sarah Pinborough, or the terrifying and emotional storytelling of Paul Tremblay.

Further Appeal: I am not sure where to start here because everything about this book was amazing, but I think this is where I need to start:
"This novel is a treat for horror fans, yes, but it also perfect for fans of any kind of popular fiction as it manages to both scare and comment on the joy a great read can bring to the right reader."
This is not your typical writer writing about the writing process story-- not at all. First, while the setting is a writers retreat, the entire story is more of a celebration of readers especially readers of popular, pulpy books. In fact, Janz goes as far to outright say, in this novel, that all great pulp fiction has a deeper meaning, and it is a meaning that can be enjoyed without pretension.

Second, this contest is intense. The host is a literal monster- a demon feeding on the souls of the contestants. And I am not giving anything away here because it comes clear quickly that this is happening. The point is for the reader to be in on it early, which also generates the intense psychological suspense part of the story.

From the first line we know this contest is evil. Our host is unreliable to the reader before we even meet him.

But, as if that is not enough, then there is the third thing that makes this book not your typical horror story of writers on an isolated retreat-- all the contestant are also unreliable. Every single one of them was invited for being a writer but also because they each have a terrible, violent, horrible secret in their pasts. Every single one. Even as "good" characters emerge, none are untainted by violence and evil which they perpetrated knowingly and willingly. There is no gray area there.

All of these additions to what could have been a trite story make is fascinating. The characters are amazing and the heart of the story. They comes from all walks of life too, their diversity being accurately representative. They propel the action. Learning about the details that flesh each out on the page is terrifying yet satisfying. The characters are what add interest and even pacing to the story. Yes the plotting is great, the twists satisfying, and the action awesome, but the character rules here. This is a rare feat for such a fast paced story. Janz builds character without sacrificing action; in fact, he uses some key action sequences specifically to develop some characters. Very cool.

There is violence and horror. There are actual terrifying scenes and intense plot twists. This is an emotional story but man, the ending is killer. But even more than being a great ending, it is one that leaves the reader unsettled about reading any book, ever. Seriously. And that is ultimately what makes this novel great, one that I think we be read for many years to come.

Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettling, book about reading, thought provoking

Readalikes: I listed 4 authors above and here are their titles that I would choose to best match The Dark Game.
In general, this novel reminded me A LOT of Brian Keene's entire body of work. I felt like at times Janz possessed him. Later, I found out that the book will be dedicated to Keene [in the ARC there was no dedication]. That made a lot of sense.

Other excellent horror novels about people sequestered on purpose include Kill Creek by Scott Thomas and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Although it is decidedly more literary than The Dark Game, Janz's novel also reminded my of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi. Here, every character is flawed and damaged, but the "game" is a war these residents did not choose, but have to live under its twisted rules. The "monster" in this story is also collecting the stories of others. And of course, as you can tell from the title, it is a book framed by the themes and ideas of another book, but presented in a new way. Both are novels that can be seen as "pulpy" and literary. But whereas The Dark Game is a pulp novel that sneaks its literary fiction tendencies in, Frankenstein in Baghdad is literary on the outside, but has a satisfying pulp center.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Library Reads: April 2019

Today is Library Reads day and that 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.

    Also, please remember to click here for my Library Reads 101 recap for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month. 

    April 2019 LibraryReads

    Lost Roses: A Novel

    by Martha Hall Kelly

    Published: 4/9/2019 by Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 9781524796372
    “The Ferriday family (The Lilac Girls) returns in this story of love, loss, and triumph. The voices of four compelling female characters tell of the devastating effects of the Russian Revolution and World War I. Highly recommended for book clubs and fans of Anthony Doerr, Susan Meissner, and Lauren Belfer.”
    Mamie Ney, Auburn Public Library, Auburn, ME 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Women In The Castle by Jessica Shattuck

    The Girl He Used to Know

    by Tracey Garvis Graves

    Published: 4/2/2019 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250200358
    “A college romance with an odd, quiet girl fades when she fails to follow him to New York after graduation as promised. Ten years later, a chance meeting in Chicago reunites them. An interesting story giving insight into the world of a high functioning autistic adult. For readers who enjoyed The Rosie Project.”
    Virginia Holsten, Vinton Public Library, Vinton, IA 
    Novelist Read-alike: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

    The Invited: A Novel

    by Jennifer McMahon

    Published: 4/30/2019 by Doubleday
    ISBN: 9780385541381
    “Nate and Helen leave their teaching jobs to build their dream home in rural Vermont. Helen begins seeing ghosts, and Nate becomes obsessed with a white doe. An unputdownable thriller about a house with a tragic past. Perfect for fans of Erin Kelly and Attica Locke.”
    Terri Smith, Cornelia Library, Mt. Airy, GA
    NoveList Read-alike: Mansion by Ezekiel Boone

    Little Darlings: A Novel

    by Melanie Golding

    Published: 4/30/2019 by Crooked Lane Books
    ISBN: 9781683319979
    “A creepy, beautifully written story about a new mother of twin boys who claims to have seen a strange creature who wants to steal her babies. Doctors and the police are dismissive. Then the unthinkable happens. For fans of modern myths, psychological suspense, and Fiona Barton.”
    Amy Verkruissen, Calcasieu Parish Public Library, Lake Charles, LA 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Other Mother by Carol Goodman

    Miracle Creek: A Novel

    by Angie Kim

    Published: 4/16/2019 by Sarah Crichton Books
    ISBN: 9780374156022
    “When a medical treatment facility explodes, killing two people, the ensuing murder trial rocks the town while witnesses go to extremes to conceal their darkest secrets. Part family drama, part whodunit, Miracle Creek is a gripping debut. For fans of Celeste Ng and Liane Moriarty.”
    Portia Kapraun, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN 
    NoveList Read-alike: Defending Jacob by William Landay

    The Mother-In-Law: A Novel

    by Sally Hepworth

    Published: 4/23/2019 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250120922
    Lucy hopes to have a good relationship with her husband Ollie’s mother, but Diana makes it difficult. When Diana is found dead of an apparent suicide, Lucy reexamines everything she knows about Diana and the rest of the family. For fans of The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand and The Lake House by Kate Morton.
    Chris Markley, Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport, TN 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

    Normal People: A Novel

    by Sally Rooney

    Published: 4/16/2019 by Hogarth
    ISBN: 9781984822178
    “Follows the complicated relationship between Connell, a popular boy, and Marianne, a lonely and private girl, through their high school years and college. A great book club pick. For fans of Three Junes by Julia Glass and Idaho by Emily Ruskovich.”
    Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear Mcbride

    Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

    by Ruth Reichl

    Published: 4/2/2019 by Random House
    ISBN: 9781400069996
    “Reichl’s captivating story about leaving her job as a New York Times restaurant critic to become Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine. Her writing is as luscious as the food she critiques. For fans of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and My Life in France by Julia Child.
    Katelyn Boyer, Fergus Falls Public Library, Fergus Falls, MN
    NoveList Read-alike: My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris

    Southern Lady Code: Essays

    by Helen Ellis

    Published: 4/16/2019 by Doubleday
    ISBN: 9780385543897
    “A funny, spot-on collection of essays on topics ranging from marriage and manners, three-ways, and how to be a good friend in the middle of a murder trial. For fans of You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano and Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom.”
    Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT 
    NoveList Read-alike: Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

    Women Talking

    by Miriam Toews

    Published: 4/2/2019 by Bloomsbury
    ISBN: 9781635572582
    “In a modern-day Mennonite community, eight women surreptitiously gather in a barn to decide their future after learning the truth behind two years of sexual assaults committed by neighbors and family members. Their circuitous, swooping two-day conversation touches on faith, autonomy, duty, anger, and their hopes for their lives and those of their children in this compelling and haunting read. For fans of Lauren Groff.”
    Andrea Gough, The Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA 
    NoveList Read-alike: The Natural Way Of Things by Charlotte Wood

    Thursday, March 14, 2019

    Collection Development Alert: Translated Books and Resources for Your Collection and Patron Service

    Books in translation are hot. Some of the very best fiction from around the world, originally NOT published in English are starting to become more easily available.

    In the last few days in particular, we have had a flurry of activity that is relevant to every single one of you reading this.

    First, HarperCollins announced its new imprint, HarperVia which will focus on getting the best non-English international titles[mostly fiction] translated and onto American, British, and Australian  shelves. Click here for the full story from The Bookseller.

    This is huge news. One of the big 5 is putting resources [monetary and editorial] into getting more books in translation into our market in a more efficient manner. I am quite excited about this news.

    Second, the Man Booker International Prize was just announced. From their press release:
    2019 longlist announced- Man Booker International Prize
    The Man Booker International Prize has today, Wednesday 13 March, revealed the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ of 13 novels in contention for the 2019 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world. The prize is awarded every year for a single book, which is translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible. Authors and translators are considered to be equally important, with the £50,000 prize being split between them. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator will receive £1,000. The judges considered 108 books. 2019 longlist is:Author (Original Language –Country/territory), translator, title (publisher/imprint)
    • Jokha Alharthi (Arabic / Omani),  Marilyn Booth, Celestial Bodies (Sandstone Press Ltd)
    • Can Xue (Chinese / Chinese), Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, Love In The New Millennium (Yale University Press)
    • Annie Ernaux (French / French), Alison L. Strayer, The Years (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
    • Hwang Sok-yong (Korean / Korean), Sora Kim-Russell, At Dusk (Scribe, UK)
    • Mazen Maarouf (Arabic / Icelandic and Palestinian), Jonathan Wright, Jokes For The Gunmen (Granta, Portobello Books)
    • Hubert Mingarelli (French / French), Sam Taylor, Four Soldiers (Granta, Portobello Books)
    • Marion Poschmann (German / German), Jen Calleja, The Pine Islands (Profile Books, Serpent's Tail)
    • Samanta Schweblin (Spanish / Argentine and Italian), Megan McDowell, Mouthful Of Birds (Oneworld)
    • Sara Stridsberg (Swedish / Swedish), Deborah Bragan-Turner, The Faculty Of Dreams (Quercus, MacLehose Press)
    • Olga Tokarczuk (Polish / Polish), Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
    • Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Spanish / Colombian), Anne McLean, The Shape Of The Ruins (Quercus, MacLehose Press)
    • Tommy Wieringa (Dutch / Dutch), Sam Garrett, The Death Of Murat Idrissi (Scribe, UK)
    • Alia Trabucco Zeran (Spanish / Chilean), Sophie Hughes, The Remainder (And Other Stories) 
    The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges, chaired by Bettany Hughes, award-winning historian, author and broadcaster, and is made up of writer, translator and chair of English PEN Maureen Freely; philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs; novelist and satirist Elnathan John and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra. Bettany Hughes, chair of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize judging panel, said: ‘This was a year when writers plundered the archive, personal and political. That drive is represented in our longlist, but so too are surreal Chinese train journeys, absurdist approaches to war and suicide, and the traumas of spirit and flesh. We’re thrilled to share 13 books which enrich our idea of what fiction can do.’ The shortlist of six books will be announced on 9 April at an event at Somerset House in London, and the winner of the 2019 prize will be announced on 21 May at a dinner at the Roundhouse in London.
    These are all titles you should consider adding to your collections. 13 titles to enhance your in translation collection, a collection that is only going to gain in popularity. These are solid titles, reviewed by experts that represent voices form all over the world.

    Finally, it is important for you to stay up to date on trending areas of popular fiction even if you aren't able to buy many titles for these collections. Right now the best and most up to date coverage on what is happening in the world of transitions is found on Book Riot using their #In Translation tag. They not only have news and new releases, but they also provide reading lists like this one frequently.

    Don't sleep on this trend. I have given you plenty here today to get started. Here is also a link to all of the times I have posted about books in translation in the past, and I noticed that those posts go back quite far into my archives.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2019

    Women in Horror Roundtable Discussion [Featuring Me]

    This post originally appeared on the horror blog for February's celebration of women in horror month, but I was just re-reading what we had to say and I think it is also important to post here on the general blog.

    This piece is not just about horror, it is about women as characters [both protagonists and as victims], it is about women as writers of popular fiction, and it is about helping readers discover titles [because they included me in the conversation]. It is about EDI issues from all angles of the book world and it is written by smart women who navigate these questions and concerns on a daily basis.

    Please take a moment to read it. Details and link below.

    Also, shout out to my friend and colleague Lila Denning, who is the colleague I mention in the piece when I refer to a conversation we had about how troubling it is that many of the plots in crime and horror are predicated on violence against women, and, equally as troubling, how people don't want to really talk about the problems with that.

    Here is the original post with introductions on the roundtable participants and all the links.

    Lisa Morton, horror author and editor extraordinaire asked me to be a part of her Women in Horror Roundtable Interview for Nightmare Magazine's February Issue. The web version went live yesterday. Side note, for those of you who don't know Nightmare Magazine, I have talked about it before, but quickly, it is run by John Joseph Adams, speculative fiction editor superstar.

    I want to thank Lisa for including the library perspective in this article. She has a great mix of awesome people here, and I am very proud of the product we have created together.

    From the intro:
    To celebrate Women in Horror Month 2019, I asked four excellent female writers and horror experts to join me for a roundtable discussion. Given how the genre seems to be expanding rapidly to include more women at all levels of experience and publishing, I tried to gather a group of women with a range of talents and experience. 
    Linda Addison is an accomplished short story writer and editor, but she is probably known primarily as a poet. She is a recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and is the only author with fiction in three landmark anthologies that celebrate African-American speculative writers: the award-winning anthology Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction, Dark Dreams I and II, and Dark Thirst. 
    Joanna Parypinski made her first professional sale in 2011, and her short fiction has since appeared in the magazines NightmareBlack Static, and Vastarien, and anthologies including Haunted NightsThe Beauty of Death 2: Death by Water, and The War on Christmas. Forthcoming in 2019 is her novel Dark Carnival, and a middle grade tale in New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. She also teaches English at Glendale Community College. 
    Becky Spratford is the public library world’s most visible horror expert. She is the author of the American Library Association’s Reader’s Advisory Guide to Horror (published in a second edition in 2012), and maintains the acclaimed blog RA for All: Horror at raforallhorror.blogspot.com, as well as the original RA for All blog at raforall.blogspot.com. She was a Guest of Honor at StokerCon 2017, and she travels throughout the year talking to librarians about broadening their horror collections. 
    Kaaron Warren is an Australian author whose work extends through four novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, and The Grief Hole) and six short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her novella “Sky” from that collection won the Shirley Jackson Award and was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. It went on to win all three of the Australian genre awards, while The Grief Hole did the same thing in 2017. She has also taught writing workshops and mentored newer writers.

    Click here to read the entire piece. We do not pull any punches here.

    It makes for an excellent ending to a wonderful month.

    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    RA for All Virtual Roadshow Visits Utah State Library for Book Discussion Training

    This morning we reach the end of my three webinar contract with Utah State Library with my Recharge Your Book Club training session.

    I love helping others to be better book discussion leaders, as you saw in yesterday's post too. I am not exaggerating by saying it is the most rewarding thing I do. Book discussions are a great way to have meaningful conversation and civil debate in the library. This is something our society needs desperately.

    Also, book club training is an area of librarianship where I have been able to contribute new ways of thinking to what has been a long standing library program. In particular the Group and Leadership Norms concept is one I created and is being used at libraries all over the country.

    Click through to view the slides from the latest iteration of this program here.

    Click here for your own copy of my "Group and Leadership Norms" that you can use with your groups.

    Click here for slide access

    Monday, March 11, 2019

    ARRT Book Club Study: EVICTED notes and announcement of April Discussion

    Recently, the ARRT Book Club Study met to discuss Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

    Here is the summary from Goodreads:

    From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. 
    The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. 
    Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. 
    Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

    Click here for the notes on our excellent discussion. And click here for our leadership training notes from the second half of the meeting on serving outside book groups in your community.

    Also, even though attendance at the Book Club Study discussion and leadership training meeting is a member perk, as always you can visit the ARRT Book Club Study Archives to see the notes on every book we have discussed [in alpha order] and also the Leadership Topics [also in alpha order].

    This archive is a wonderful training tool for you to learn about topics all book groups struggle with and see examples of discussions for a wide range of books.

    And we do this 4x a year.  Here is the announcement of our next discussion Look for notes soon after April 16th:

    Please join us for a discussion of Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, led by Carrie Straka.
    The Christmas season offers little cheer for Eileen Dunlop, an unassuming yet disturbed young woman trapped between her role as her alcoholic father’s caretaker in a home whose squalor is the talk of the neighborhood and a day job as a secretary at the boys’ prison, filled with its own quotidian horrors. Consumed by resentment and self-loathing, Eileen tempers her dreary days with perverse fantasies and dreams of escaping to the big city. In the meantime, she fills her nights and weekends with shoplifting, stalking a buff prison guard named Randy, and cleaning up her increasingly deranged father’s messes. When the bright, beautiful, and cheery Rebecca Saint John arrives on the scene as the new counselor at Moorehead, Eileen is enchanted and proves unable to resist what appears at first to be a miraculously budding friendship. In a Hitchcockian twist, her affection for Rebecca ultimately pulls her into complicity in a crime that surpasses her wildest imaginings.
    -Summary courtesy of Goodreads.

    The discussion will be held: 
    Tuesday, April 16th, 2-4 p.m.
    RSVP to Carrie Straka (cstraka@itascalibrary.org)
    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. Our upcoming leadership topic, led by Greta Ulrich, will offer participants a chance to share their favorite under the radar book discussion gems. Please come ready to book talk a title or two that worked really well with your group. Try to focus on less obvious choices.
    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.

    Friday, March 8, 2019

    RA for All Virtual Roadshow Brings Booktalking to the High Plains [CO] Library District

    The High Plains Library District in Colorado is having their staff training day today. Like many library systems they have a conference style training day. I love this idea that everyone on a larger system staff can come together, in this case at a local college, and both have time to network with and see each other from across buildings and departments AND get to take workshops that they are interested in.

    I am there virtually right after lunch to present my popular Booktalking Your Way to the Friendliest Library in Town. Thankfully there is a scheduled networking time after my session so I can stick around and answer questions too.

    Here are the slides for participants and all of you.

    Have a great weekend.

    Click here for slide access

    Thursday, March 7, 2019

    The Search for Diverse Readalikes for David Baldacci Leads Becky to A Discussion of the Inherent Racism and Sexism in Our Resources

    As I have written about here and here, I feel very strongly about making sure I present readalikes that go beyond white and male options only. When I give Booklist a review, I make sure that I have women and own voices author represented as further reading options, even if I have to work harder to find those inclusive read alike options than I did to write the review.

    Honestly, until we start making an effort to offer diverse and inclusive comp titles for every author, even when it is a bit harder to do so, the problem will only get worse. We, the library workers on the front lines, suggesting reading options to patrons, we are the ones who can make a difference. When we offer more diverse readalike options that match the appeal factors the readers is seeking out, then we start to help create a body of those suggestions for others to build off of.

    Once we have presented more inclusive readalikes, created better lists, included inclusive options in published reviews, etc... then it won't be as hard for our colleagues to find and include these options in their work. Also, when we make the effort now, and build a reservoir of inclusive readalike options for ALL popular authors, building up from that strong foundation [that we are working overtime to provide] will be easy because including authors from all backgrounds and experiences will start to be considered standard practice.

    Thankfully, many library workers have taken up my calls to diversify their established readalike lists and as they sort through their stock, they often contact me for assistance. This week, I received just such a query from a library worker in CO. 

    She was tasked with updating their David Baldacci readalikes author list which was 100% white and male. She had worked very hard to find other political thrillers that were own voices or by women but was struggling.

    I wanted to share my email response to her because I think the suggestions I have offered will help all of you too, but also, what I realized while helping her, that is something I am going to delve into more. First my response:
    Ahh Baldacci. Yup, he is an issue. The whole Thriller genre is actually. 
    Here is my suggestion-- go further afield from the type of thriller and more into his appeal. So books with conspiracies and flawed protagonists. Also move more toward the "literary thriller" designation. That is where we find more people of color and women. Honestly it is sorta racist and sexist. If it's own voices or by a woman it becomes more literary-- read as a more difficult read than a straight political thriller-- which is dumb and again racists and sexist. But working in that frame work to look for options, you get more diverse offerings. 
    Ideas for authors or titles: 
    So in that email I brought up two huge issues when we look for readalikes in what appear to be white, male dominated genres.

    First, the genre designation itself poses barriers. If we limit our searches for readalikes in a genre like Political Thrillers, we are going to have trouble finding diverse options partially because that specific subgenre in its old school form is dying-- and I would argue part of the reason it is waning is because only white male authors are writing it. The younger and more diverse offerings of authors are using some of the same appeal factors, but not being held to the old formulas. They are including aspects of the political thriller, but doing it in more of a cross genre way. You see this blending of genres across the fiction landscape, with newer and more diverse authors really embracing it. As result, it is hard find an exact match for any established, narrow subgenre in general, let alone inclusive offerings.

    As we look at all older authors who are still popular, we need to move away from trying to match the plots or specific subgenres and instead look more closely at the appeal of the established author-- why people like his work-- then we can more easily find women and own voices authors.

    So when I was thinking about crowd pleasing thrillers with a political frame like Baldacci but NOT set in America I easily identified Juan Gabriel Vasquez and Mai Jia. Two very popular and mainstream authors from Columbia and China respectively. 

    For a wildly popular thriller series from another subgenre [medical thriller] but with the same type of flawed but sympathetic protagonists, I suggested Gerritsen. Don't underestimate how much of a genre "bestsellers" are. And these are 2 bestselling authors with movie/TV versions of their books and both are under the thriller umbrella.

    Sheena Kamal was nominated for many awards for her first suspense novel and now the second one is out. Her series features a flawed but sympathetic heroine and there are conspiracy plot devices as well as shocking and fast held secrets that need to be uncovered.

    And finally, The Khan mystery series I mention in the email. I have read the first one myself and have a longer review here. These are politically framed, Canadian set mysteries featuring a police duo of a Muslim man and a young woman. They come from different backgrounds and experiences, but I really like how they compliment each other [and no sexual tension]. Baldacci fans would enjoy the political frame of the stories too.

    But the second issue is making things hard for library workers who are trying to do the work but are afraid to pick books that are too "literary" for more traditional genre readers, and it's not an easy one to break because it is tied to systematic racism and sexism.

    When doing this search I realized quite quickly that many of the books which I thought would work were categorized as "Literary Thrillers." When you put the word literary in front of a popular genre, it scares readers and library workers who think that the title might be too "high brow" for a more pop fiction reader-- like a Baldacci fan.

    Yet, when I dove in and looked at some of the option in this "Literary" classification I was surprised to find many books [not all] which I would NOT put in a literary category. And, the things these books had in common....they were by own voices authors or women.

    This had me do some more digging and I found that in many genre resources, just the fact that something is by a person of color, LGBTQ, or even a woman, our resources think that it cannot be considered mainstream and thus moves it to "Literary." Think about how racist and sexist this is. It's not about white men and their issues so there for it is for a more "discerning audience."

    On the surface some people may say, well that is actually a compliment. It means it is of higher quality.

    If you thought that, please note, you are wrong. This is a statement from a point of privilege, one that doesn't realize how racists and sexist what is truly happening is. This does not make you a bad person, just misinformed because what this classification actually does is alienate these titles from consideration as mainstream.

    If we are building resources that profess only more "literary" readers can try inclusive books and that white male authors are for "mainstream" and pop fiction readers, we are doing great harm to everyone-- the authors, the readers, and our fellow professionals. We are perpetuating the problem and allowing it to continue, even get worse.

    This inherent racism and sexism will make it harder for the average library worker to identify inclusive resources. Not everyone has had my training where I have to remind people over and over again to not focus on the genre classification or plot of a book and instead focus on that book's feel. When we focus on the appeal of the book-- and again in our Baldacci example that would be the flawed but sympathetic protagonists, the conspiracies and secrets, and a political frame-- then there are many inclusive options that will work.

    Let's work together to build better resources. Let's work harder to find people a wider breath of reading options. Let's introduce great reads to more people. But let's do it consciously, by building more inclusive and representative resources one readalike list at a time.

    This is a topic I will consider exploring in more posts and as part of a Library Journal online class coming this May. More details soon.

    Wednesday, March 6, 2019

    Your Annual Reminder to Follow the Tournament of Books Because It is Fun and Useful

    One of my favorite book events of the year begins today....The Tournament of Books. Click here to follow.

    I love ToB for so many reasons and I have written about them many times before. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I will repost my comments from last year below.

    But before I leave I want to encourage all of you who enjoy following ToB each year, especially those of you who, like me, use it as a great outside the box suggestion tool, to support the sponsor Field Notes. I made a purchase during the tournament last year and then this Fall I actually became a subscriber to their quarterly box.

    ToB is fun and useful. As I describe below, you can use it to make suggestions to readers and build displays. And it is extremely interactive. Let's help make sure it keeps coming year after year.

    I also want to explicitly mention that just being on the ToB list-- any year-- makes all of these books a good readalike option for each other. Take me, every year [without fail] some of my favs from the year before end up in the ToB. This year, two of my professed favorite books from last year, My Sister the Serial Killer and There There are in the running. It happens year after year. I know I am not the only one because I see similar thought expressed in the comments.

    There is more about how to use the ToB as a RA tool below. It is a great way to recapture your love of books and reading. Spend some time each day reading the judge's comments. Whether you agree or not, whether you have read the books in question or not, it is really nourishing to your story loving soul.


    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