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.

Friday, September 13, 2019

What I'm Reading: The Twisted Ones

Happy Friday the 13th! Do I have a great upcoming book for you. This one is super creepy, and it is based on a classic readers may not know about. More after the daft review, including readalikes you can read today.
The Twisted Ones 
Kingfisher, T. (author).
Oct. 2019. 385p. Simon &Schuster/Saga,
 paper, $16.99  (9781534429567); Simon & Schuster/Saga, $24.99 (9781534429574). 
First published September 15, 2019 (Booklist).

Mouse goes to rural North Carolina to clean out her grandmother’s house after the old, nasty woman died. What she finds at first is an unsettling, hoarder mess, but as she digs through the mounds of garbage, she stumbles upon her step-grandfather's journal, and with that discovery she enters a whole new level of horror, one that he has described in terrifying detail, one that Mouse and her dog also begin to experience, and one that they might not survive. Told with a “found book” frame and an intense first person narration, this folk horror novel begins with the unease of Mouse telling us how her life was forever tainted by the experience she is about to recount. It is a tale as tightly twisted and menacing as that carvings she finds in the woods. Readers will stand back in awe as it all unravels, slowly at first, and then with great and terrifying speed. While The Twisted Ones is a modern retelling of the seminal Weird Fiction tale, “The White People,” by Arthur Machen, a story cited as one of H.P. Lovecraft’s biggest influences, it can also be enjoyed on its own without that context. Kingfisher has done a great job bringing this story to a new generation so that they can experience and interpret the wonder and dread that has made this brand of horror so satisfying across a century, much like the popular and award-winning work of Caitlin Keirnan, Matt Ruff, and Paul La Farge.
Further Appeal: "Twisted" is the perfect word for this book. It is pervasively creepy and will burrow under your skin as it twists Mouse and the reader into an uncomfortable, claustrophobic, and completely disoriented state of mind.

This book is about Mouse, getting into her head space, and being trapped there. It is intense, but not bloody. The intensity is psychological, but it does lead to physical danger too. This is a book, while short, that you may need to put down for a bit, take a breather, and then return to. However, for fans of this type of horror story, they want that and will love it.

I cannot stress enough how closely this book is based on the Machen original. This will make some of the writing and plot devices seem odd to some readers at first, but Kingfisher is also able to make this story intriguing and compelling on her own. Retelling and reclaiming of Lovecraftian horror by people who he would have hated in real life [women, poc, LGBTQ] is also a huge trend.

This novel also embraces the folk horror trope which is very hot right now too, especially for those who have seen the popular movie Midsommar.

Three Words That Describe This Book: claustrophobic, psychologically intense, found book frame

Readalikes: Obviously you cannot read this book on Friday the 13th today, since it is not out yet. But, the links in the review above go to some very solid readalikes that you can get your hands on right now. Those three are going to be very true to the style and storytelling of the older texts they are based upon, just like The Twisted Ones

However, there are other works that are in not based off of these older texts that this novel reminded me of, specifically The Grip of It by Jac Jemc and The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue. Both are intensely creepy and claustrophobic, create a sense of disorientation in the characters and the reader, and have a touch of "the weird." Click on the linked titles to see even more readalikes. These are also both mainstream titles I know most libraries have already.

If you want to try a few more classic authors who inspired Lovecraft, I would also suggest Algernon Blackwood and Clark Ashton Smith to get started. Also if you want an introduction to Lovecraft, I highly suggest the Annotated Lovecraft series by Leslie Klinger, especially the brand new volume in the series with an introduction by Victor LaValle whose excellent The Ballad of Black Tom is an amazing Lovecraft retelling on its own [again by a black man, someone Lovercraft would have hated himself]. These books collect the stories of Lovecraft and include Klinger's award winning annotations that bring the text to life for the modern reader, including discussions of his influences, such as Machen.

Finally, if you are interested in finding out more about cosmic horror, old and new, I highly suggest you subscribe to the podcast, Cosmic Shenanigans, hosted by horror author and writing professor, Mary SanGiovanni. This weekly podcast focuses on a specific story, novel, movie, graphic novel, even video game in each episode. She either reads the work [if short enough] or describes it in detail and then discusses how and why it is in the "cosmic" horror subgenre. This podcast is especially good for those of you who aren't horror fans but want to understand the enduring appeal of Lovecraft and his work. You can browse the archives to find stories, authors, or artists that you would like to know more about.

I think this gives you plenty to fill your Friday the 13th with spooky reads.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bookworms? No, We Are Booksharks!

In order to further promote the fantastic ARRTCon program we have in store for all of you, I wanted to highlight a recent column by our afternoon keynote speaker, Gabino Iglesias, entitled, "Ten Problems Only Booksharks Have."

[I posted about the program here yesterday, and seriously, if you can get to Naperville, IL on 11/14, you need to come join us.]

This piece is tongue in cheek yes, but it is also 100% true! I love how Iglesias always embraces his book nerdom, while also reminding all of us who share in his love of books how ferocious, powerful, and awesome it is to be readers, especially professional readers.

Reading is not a passive activity for weak people; we are not worms who bury underground and hide; we are predators who stalk our prey, both books and the people who haven't read the books we want them to. Iglesias wants us all to embrace our power, own it, and bask in it. We are more powerful that we think we are....every single day.

I hope this piece inspires you. I hope it gives you the energy to tackle whatever your day brings to you; and I know from 15 years of public service myself, what is brought to you on any given day could be anything and everything. And, even if your day is not filled with as much personal reading as you would hope for, remember, when you share books, talk about books, put up displays, promote titles, all of it, remember you are being a Bookshark! Own it.

Why not also include your patrons. Use the graphic below for social media or an in-house display. Ask patrons to comment on what makes them a bookshark. What books to they stalk? What titles are they on the hunt for, etc.... Just don't be literal and only include books about sharks please. That is not the point here.

I have included the introduction of the article with a link to the rest below. I promise you, this is worth your time [as is just about anything Iglesias writes].

Ten Problems Only Booksharks Have 

Shark image by GEORGE DESIPRIS
Let's get the obvious question out of the way. Booksharks is a term I created after getting tired of seeing readers referred to as bookworms. We read ferociously. We never stop. We hunt exciting narratives. We discuss books aggressively. We move through bookstores with purpose and killer instinct. We are predators, and "bookworm" just doesn't cut it anymore. We're fucking booksharks. 
Moving on! If books are a huge part of your life, you have a unique set of problems only others like you will understand. Everyone else will either make fun of or simply ignore them because they can't relate. The list is long, but this is the internet and we have to keep things relatively short, so here ten of them. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

ARRTCon 2019-- A Full Day RA Conference-- Registration is Now Live!

I am so happy to announce ARRTCon 2019 coming November 14, 2019. Days like today are wonderful because this is something I have been working on for months and finally, the rest of you can register for this AMAZING full day program we have organized for you. It includes breakfast and lunch, and you get to choose your break out sessions.

We often have people come in from out of town for this event and it usually sells out, so now is the time to jump on this amazing opportunity.

See the details below including information about our 2 keynote speakers and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Register now for ARRTCon 2019! Here are all the details…

Thursday, November 14, 9 am – 4:40 pm 
Naperville Public Library | 95th Street Library 
Registration: $60 for ARRT members / $75 for non-members
Join ARRT for an all-day conference covering a wide variety of RA Topics!
After a continental breakfast, Rebecca Vnuk, Executive Director of LibraryReads, will kick off the day discussing Librarians as Influencers.
Each attendee will be able to attend three breakout sessions from the list of eight topics. You’ll be prompted to rank the breakouts you are most interested in when you register!
  • #OwnVoices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values into RA Service
  • Developing Inclusive Reading Challenges
  • Genre 101: Using Your New Workbook
  • Genre Study Success: Hosting Your Own — Big or Small
  • Large Scale Book Based Programming: From Idea to Event Day & Everything In-Between
  • New Way RA
  • NoveList: Unlocking Themes
  • Working with LibraryReads Panel
Lunch is included, and preceded by a “Book Buzz” by Sourcebooks
Author, reviewer, and educator Gabino Iglesias will speak on I Don’t See Race, I Only Care About the Story and Other Polite Microagressions sponsored by NoveList.
All participants will receive a digital copy of The ARRT Popular Fiction List, 5th edition, ARCs from Sourcebooks, and new ideas to share!
If you are a 2019 member, you can also renew your membership for 2020 now! If you aren’t a member, your registration fee will include a 2020 membership.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Call to Action: All You Need for a Display Are Items for Patrons to Check Out

Today I have a Call to Action post that is more of a gentle reminder:
You do not need props, a backdrop, or and visuals components to put up a library display. ALL YOU NEED ARE ITEMS FOR YOUR PATRONS TO CHECK OUT!
All over the internet I see these intricate and massive set ups for displays made by library workers who have probably spent more time on the props than on the book choice.

Now, don't get me wrong, these are visually stunning, and as the former boss of an employee who LOVED making the displays look awesome, I get it. If you have a staff member with the skills to create an intricate backdrop for your displays, let them use their skills for good. Please, do not stop them.

However, I want to talk to the vast majority of you out there who are feeling inferior because all you did was put out some items on an open shelf.

You are doing a great job too!

As Joyce Saricks taught me, people gravitate to a smaller universe of books. The vast expanse of the stacks is overwhelming to most patrons, this is why no matter where or how you display smaller groups of books, patrons will stop and browse them. It is much easier for our brains to tackle a smaller set of choices.

This also means you don't even need fancy shelving in order to put items out for display. You simply need a flat surface where you can group a few titles. Also, while a subject or title  for the display is nice, it isn't necessary.

Simply grouping books that you think patrons may enjoy, face out on the end of a shelf, on your desk, on an empty table top, anywhere is enough. In fact, it is more than enough, it is perfect!

The "face out" part is key though. Get as many books you display face out as possible because the covers were designed by professional artists whose job it is to make the books look good. They are the ones with the artistic and display skills, and they have already been hired to do that job. Use their hard work to help you make a great display by showcasing the covers of the book.

[See also: my 2008 post on judging books by their covers. Summary of said post-- do it and encourage patrons to join you in this fun and slightly scandalous activity.]

The point of a display is to catch patrons' attention and encourage them to check out an item they would enjoy, but probably couldn't find on their own. We are there to enable discovery, and studies show that discovery happens with or without a fancy backdrop.

Don't believe me? Try this for a few days. Just put out a cart of recently returned items somewhere patrons can browse it. Don't sort it. Just plop the mess from the book drop onto a cart and place it in the middle of the lobby. Patrons will attack it. Why? Precisely because it has a little of everything and does not look too fancy to touch. I know this is true because for many years do to lack of space, we had our return carts in an area where the public and staff areas came together. Patrons LOVED this cart. When we were able to move it to the back, we had tons of complaints. So we created a shelf of recently returned items to satisfy demand. [By the way, that is a display that fills itself and people love it.]

Since just having a few books grouped together, away from the mass of the stacks, draw them in, you do not NEED to be fancy. [Again, if you want to and it isn't a burden go for it, but I know for the vast majority of my readers, it is the "making it pretty" part that is the rate limiting step.]

So spend your time picking the items you want to display and get them up quickly, rotating often. Make sure you are highlighting under the radar titles that would otherwise languish in the stacks without your help. Target those titles from 2-5 years ago that are great reads but have simply gone out of fashion. 

And make sure you are selecting books that are inclusive and diverse. In other words, your books shouldn't only be by heterosexual white dudes. A mix of voices and experiences makes for the best kind of display because it represents the breadth of our reality and the fact that the world is made up of all kinds of people, with different strengths, identities, and perspectives.

Let's help our patrons find a good read by not holding ourselves to an impossible visual standard. Get those items face out and displayed somewhere, anywhere. And watch your patrons happily encounter something they never would have found on their own. 

For past Call to Action posts, visit the archive here.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Free Webinars Always Available via Booklist Online

Today, to start a busy week, I wanted to remind you that Booklist Online is offering many FREE webinars for all age levels, fiction and nonfiction, basically, everything leisure reading related that you could possibly need to know.

Click here to see the archives of webinars you can view immediately. [I'm working on some today myself].

Click here to see the upcoming webinars.

Also, below, I have included information about a few of the most recent and upcoming that are of the most relevance to a majority of my readers. Honestly, you are silly not to take advantage of these programs.

Start your week off right by making some time for your continuing education, and even better, it is all on your schedule.


Archives to Watch NOW!!!

Adult Announcements: Fall (and Winter) Faves (August 20, 2019) You’ve already torn through your beach reads, your vacation days, and each day feels shorter than the last. What’s an avid reader to do? Never fear, representatives from Bloomsbury Publishing, Harlequin, HarperCollins Publishers, Plough, and Workman Publishing are here to ease that summer–autumn transition, presenting the latest and greatest adult titles hitting shelves this fall (and winter)! Join us for this free, one-hour webinar, and prepare to fall for forthcoming books galore. Moderated by Booklist Adult Books Editor Donna Seaman.

We Need to Talk: Great Book-Group Reads for Fall and Beyond (July 30, 2019) Is your book club in a reading slump? Never fear, because we have some upcoming adult titles that are sure to create lively discussion and get group members wanting more. In this one-hour, free webinar we’ll talk with representatives from Ingram, W.W. Norton & Company, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt about your next group reading assignment. Trust us, your book club will have recs to last you the whole year! Moderated by Adult Books Associate Editor, Annie Bostrom.

Booklist's Small-Press Speed Dating Extravaganza (July 16, 2019) Meet the small press of your dreams during this scintillating hour of succinct presentations by six exciting indie presses in the United States and Canada. Donna Seaman, Booklist’s editor for Adult Books and a big fan of small-press books, will run the show. Here’s the line-up: Casemate Publishers; Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the Naval Institute Press; Dundurn Press; ECW Press; Nimbus Publishing; and Restless Books. Join us and learn about forthcoming titles from dynamic small presses that will bring rich variety and fresh energy to your collections.

Friday, September 6, 2019

New Set of Bite Sized Book Lists for NoveList by Me

One of the most common communications I get is from people looking for interesting book club titles. I have been working with NoveList to make more "grab and go" lists of inclusive and interesting books for book clubs over the last year to help satisfy the demand.

My first group of 5 lists with 6 books in each went live last year and you can see the categories and titles for those here. Now below you can access my second group of 5 lists of 6 books that recently went live on NoveList.

While all you get here on the blog are the titles and the annotation for the category, all of the title annotations are available through NoveList, When you look up a title go to the "Lists and Articles" tab and "Bite- Sized Book Lists" will be listed there. That link then brings you directly to the full list. [See the entry example photo for Unbury Carol to the left]

With both sets of lists that is 60 books total! You can use these to make displays, as sure bet suggestions based on the categories, or for book groups. And, there is no excuse not to book talk these titles-- again 60 of them-- because I wrote you a 30 second [or less] book talk for each. They are sure bet titles for adult readers. And most are also good for teens.

Even without Novelist access, you can at least book talk the category and then offer title suggestions. So get out there and start book talking.


Not Your Father’s Westerns: Westerns are making a comeback carried on the backs of a new crop of writers, led by women and own voices authors, who are turning their pens to the legacy of this rich, cinematic and uniquely American genre. The results are a spate of fresh, entertaining, and thought provoking tales that are perfect for book discussions because Westerns are tales not only of heroes and adventure, the vast and often unforgiving landscape, but also of outsiders and loners looking for their place in the American story.  
  • The Son by Philipp Meyer
  • Little Century by Anna Keesey
  • Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
  • The Hunger by Alma Katsu
  • Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
  • River of Teeth  by Sarah Gailey
Graphic Novels for Book Discussions: This may shock your average book club participants, but some of the most thought provoking and discussable books being written also come with pictures. If you are dismissing graphic novels as childish or think they are not for YOUR book club, you are missing out on some great stories and thought provoking discussions. Here is a list of six graphic novels that will engage your group to discuss the themes, the art, the writing and how it all works together to create a memorable story. 
  • The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
  • Journalism by Joe Sacco
  • Here by Richard McGuire
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Volume 1 by Emil Ferris
  • Destroyer by Victor LaValle
  • Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy written by Noelle Steveson and Grace Ellis, illustrated by Shannon Watters and Brooke Allen

Books in Translation: Over the last few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of books not originally written in English, being made available in translation. We can thank the success of novels like those by Haruki Murakami and series by Stieg Larsson and Elena Ferrante for making books in translation a viable commercial endeavour for American publishers. This list includes titles from all over the world and from a variety of genres, all of which make for an excellent book club experience in English. 
  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
  • Snow by Orhan Pamuk
  • Floors Up by Eshkol Nevo
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
True Crime: No longer a genre only read in secret,True Crime is a genre that is loudly proclaiming its place in the mainstream. With the popularity of true crime based podcasts like “My Favorite Murder” and “Serial,” there is a huge appetite for books to fill the gap between episodes. The genre has also seen a renaissance in the writing style, as until very recently, the books were mostly written by those doing the investigations. Now, we see more writers entering the genre, leading to a narrative focus that goes beyond the specific “facts” of the cases and engenders further inquiry into larger, universal issues, creating a perfect space for book groups to enter the picture. Here is a list of 6 true crime titles, split up into three pairings that will further enhance discussion over multiple meetings. 
Popular True Crime-Memoir Mash Ups: These books feature true crime stories where the author also inserts themself and their life story into the narrative; as a result, they are an excellent choice for groups already comfortable discussing memoirs.
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara 
  • Black Klansman: Race, Hate and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
True Crime With Lots of Frame: These books are as much about the details of the time, place, and worlds in which they are centered as they are about the crimes in question; as a result, they make a great choice for group’s who already enjoy historical fiction and narrative nonfiction. Both of these titles are also excellent on audio.
  • The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Johnson
  • The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
True Crime Set Outside America: Most of the true crime being read in America and featured on the most popular podcasts is set right here. Why not try reading about a crime overseas? These books are a great choice for groups who like, or want to try, internationally set stories.
  • There Are No Dead Here: A Story of Murder and Denial in Columbia by Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno
  • A Death in the Lucky Holiday Hotel: Murder, Money, and an Epic Power Struggle in China by Pin He and Wenguang Huang.
Take a Trip Around the World: While I’d be willing to guess that your book club does not have the budget to travel the world in person, since you already meet regularly, you could plan some armchair travel, together. Below is a list containing one book from each of the 6 inhabited continents. All are set in the 21st century, allowing your group to explore the world as it is now, compare experiences across continents, and make true connections with characters and cultures from all across the globe.
  • Europe: Ordinary People by Diana Evans
  • Africa: Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo 
  • Asia: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga 
  • Australia: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay
  • North America: There,There by Tommy Orange
  • South America: The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Are You Ready For Some.....Reading with the Andrew Luck Book Club

The NFL Season opens tonight and I will be in a seat at Soldier Field for the Bears-Packers game with my Father, Son, and Husband. No matter how you feel about the NFL, it is hard to argue against the fact that it brings people together.

Not only will my son get to be with his Dad and Grandfather for the night but my husband, son, and I are all in a fantasy football league together with old college friends. Relationships that persist over 25 years because of a silly game. [Side note, son was added last year when someone dropped out and he then went on to kick all of our butts.]

Many NFL players, past and present, use their affiliation with the league and their knowledge that it incites strong feelings in the fans to promote their personal causes. We see players like JJ Watt and former Bears' player Charles Tillman, [among countless others] do great things with their athletic celebrity.

But some, like the recently retired Andrew Luck, use their celebrity to promote BOOKS! And even though Luck isn't playing this season, his book club is still going. And what better way than today to remind people of it.

The Andrew Luck Book Club picks a kid book and an adult book every month, or as they call them Rookie and Veteran reads. The books are not linked, but what I love about the program is that it gets the entire family reading a book a month. The parents and kids can use their excitement about football to finds a book to read.

I also love the fact that it has been going on for a while now, so you can use this backlist to make a display or recommenced reading list. Seriously, lots of libraries will put up literal football themed displays this week, why not put up a football player inspired list to stand out? Also, these are titles most libraries already have and are probably on the shelf. Let's get those backlist titles off the shelf and into readers' hands.

There is also an interactive social media aspect to this book club which makes it fun for families or even the library to follow along.

And last,  but definitely not least, because it is about titles for kids and adults, this is a great opportunity for Youth and Adult departments to work together. [See Becky's Basic Rules of RA Service, Rule #8].

This is a book club that will appeal to the entire family-- all ages and genders. It is also a wonderful book discovery tool for patrons who may not know where to begin.

Again, not matter how you feel about the NFL, Andrew Luck is trying to help us help readers, and I for one am willing to take advantage of his celebrity for my purposes.

Click here for all of the details on the book club, how to participate, and for the list of past books.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Genre Blending in Speculative Fiction

This week the ARRT Steering Committee is finalizing our final draft of the 5th Edition of the Popular Fiction List, a product we sell to NoveList. This has been two years in the making.

I will have more to say about how you can best use this resource for staff training and self-evaluation and about the changes we have made overall when we get closer to its release [November 14th], but today I wanted to chat a little bit about the section for which I was the "team captain"-- Speculative Fiction.

[Insert sarcastic shouts of "Shocking!" here. What did you expect. Seriously, I am nothing if not always on brand people.]

As the captain of the Speculative section, I was tasked with leading our team through the landscape of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, making sure that we not only gathered a diverse and inclusive list of authors, but placed them in the subgenre they most fit into.

Sounds easy on paper, but if you know anything about the speculative genres, you know this was a difficult task because they all have a tendency to blend within books and authors often write in more than one. In fact, just revising the cumbersome genre-subgenre classification within Science Fiction and Fantasy was difficult enough, but then, the bigger issue. We were left with a large number of authors who clearly write "Speculative" but who could not be fit accurately into any one genre, they belonged to all three, with every single one their books they belonged to all three.

Now, this will make more sense when you see the final product, but stay with me here as I use a mainstream example, an author who HAD to be included somewhere, Jeff Vandermeer.

What genre does VanderMeer write in? There are arguments to put him in Science Fiction or Fantasy or Horror. Also, one of the things we consider with all of the speculative authors, because many actually write in both SF and Fantasy regularly, is how readers categorize them. In other words, in which genre would most readers place the author overall.

Well, with VanderMeer the answer is all three. How do I know that? One of the best ways to see how readers categorize an author is to see which "shelves" readers put a book on in Goodreads.

To the left is a screen shot for one of his most popular books, Annihilation.

As you can see, I circled the most popular shelves that people put this book on and Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror are all in the top 5.

I always label VanderMeer as one of the benchmark authors in "Weird Fiction" myself, but the Speculative section didn't have "Weird Fiction" before. And more importantly, as the person who could change that by adding it, where would I put it? Under which main genre, Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror?

All of this is the long intro to announce that I took my job as captain of Speculative Fiction as a chance to blow up the entire structure as you can see in the new scope note for the revised section [bold added by me for the blog today]:
Speculative Fiction: Speculative fiction explores the wide world of “what if.” The appeal for readers is in the otherworldly quality of the stories. They like to follow the characters into a setting where the impossible is possible. The intricate world-building in these novels often means the elaborate settings are used in long-running series. In speculative fiction the “what-if” could arise by magic, science that is not yet possible, a supernatural monster, or anything else the author can dream up. The speculative genres and the authors who write them also have a tendency to overlap and blend with each other; however, most readers of these genres both understand and expect this. Fans crave stories which ask them to look at their current world from a different perspective. The speculative fiction genres include: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Further Explorations of the Unreal.
Yup, I added an entire new "genre" that isn't a genre...."Further Explorations of the Unreal." I mean, you figured they knew what they were doing by putting me charge of anything, right? Chances were I was going to do something crazy.

Seriously though, when we really broke down the issue as a group, it went beyond shoe horning "weird fiction" in somewhere. There were still other categories and authors that needed consideration. And, we were also finding that almost all of the authors we were struggling to fit into the old categories were the, popular, one voices authors we were trying to make sure we included. 

So today, I present a preview of some of our work, as I give you the scope note for this new category under Speculative and the three new "subgenres" with their scope notes, all created, from scratch, by my group for ARRT.

All of these categories have authors assigned to them, but you need to have access to NoveList later this year or become an ARRT member in order to see those. I have given 1 example author for each category to help you orient yourself though.

Even without all of the authors, I know many of you can use this to help readers right now.

FURTHER EXPLORATIONS OF THE UNREAL: The genres encompassed by the Speculative Fiction umbrella have always overlapped, but one of the three main genres has taken a leading role. Over time, genre blending has resulted in the emergence of distinct subgenres which are hybrids of the larger speculative genres. Readers of these blended speculative subgenres enjoy stories where the unreal can come from a mixture of magic, horrific creatures, and science and are interested in the space where they all can work together. Authors of these hybrid subgenres must work twice as hard as their binary cousins to build their worlds, making sure that readers feel confident that the rules are consistent within the two [or more] frameworks they have created.

  • Science Fantasy: These authors mix what readers will find in science fiction and fantasy, resulting in stories where magic and science, instead of being in opposition, work in tandem. Steampunk’s mix of science fiction and fantasy elements means it is included here. Not surprisingly, this in-between space is also where you can find a higher concentration of diverse authors looking to probe the boundaries of classic genre classifications.

    --N.K. Jeminsin

  • Weird Fiction: Although weird fiction traces its roots back to the 19th Century, the term was popularized by H.P. Lovecraft in the 1920s. Today’s weird fiction is more than just an homage to a Lovecraftian aesthetic. These stories actively blend tropes common to horror, mythical fantasy, and science fiction with an intent to disorient both protagonist and reader, creating feelings that run the gamut from confusion and dread to wonder and enlightenment.

    --Jeff Vandermeer

  • End of a World: Whether the world ends via science, magic, or horrific monsters, fans are drawn to this subgenre for similar reasons. End of a World fiction is often bleak, violent, filled with loneliness, and existential questions of what it means to be human, but the themes of human resilience and hope are also present. End of a World stories can be apocalyptic, focused on stopping or preventing the disaster or post-apocalyptic, concerned with how people, often just small bands of survivors, learn to exist in the nearly annihilated, post-technology future. The trends in the End of a World fiction often reflect current geopolitical fears and threats.

    --Karen Thompson Walker

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Resource Alert: New Book on British Binge Worthy Television With Bonus Becky Rant on Helping Readers Consumer Stories Regardless of Format

When I am out providing my RA training programs, I always talk about how our work with readers includes all of the ways they consume stories-- meaning that while books are the primary method [and audio, ebooks, and graphic novels are included there], tv, movies, and podcasts are also something we need to be aware of, always.

Our patrons consume stories in a variety of ways. They "read" in many formats. One of the biggest areas is through binging television shows. Just this weekend I was talking with a friend about how much she loves to read a novel and binge a tv series. We discussed how they are both a similar activity and honestly, take the same amount of time. And, from what I have seen, my friend is not alone.

People are binging more shows and this is great for us because, again, it is simply another way they take in a longer story. We need to understand that in the patrons' eyes, the wide difference we see between reading a book and watching a multi-episode tv series is rapidly shrinking. To our patrons, both are consuming a story. And, not only do they do both, we have both for them-- as DVDs to check out, streaming services to access, and even Rokus to checkout to access the pay services.

There is NO reason, other than stubbornness and out of date point of views that stop us from helping to match our patrons with their next good story regardless of format. Books are not the only or the "correct" way to do this...period.

Well, there is one reason, we are lacking solid resources to help us help them find their next great binge.

Into this void walks, Sarah Cords, a RA expert who recently released Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can't Stop Watching which is an excellent resource for you to help patrons identify the best British shows for them.

This book is getting amazing reviews. Click here or here to read them.

Personally, I appreciate how well it is organized [also noted by the reviewers above]. It is broken up by types of shows making it very easy to use while working with patrons. Also, the American-British co-authors both interject their personal voices which makes the book feel more personal, like they are right there, looking over your shoulder, helping you to help others. I especially love the information provided by Jackie Bailey explaining the British specificities, some that are lost on even the most Anglophile of Americans.

But don't take it from me or the two stellar reviews only [again here and here], let's hear from Sarah Cords herself, including why she wrote the book and information on how easy it is for your library to order it through traditional methods.  Take it away Sarah:


I grew up as a farm girl, and although my parents encouraged reading, they did not encourage TV watching. And they really only encouraged reading when we were done with our chores—which meant, basically, that we didn’t get to read all summer and only got to read in winter when we were done with our homework, shoveling snow, and other chores. Recreational time was at an extreme premium. 
As a result I take my recreational time and activities very, very seriously. 

When I was a librarian, I reveled in the fact that reading was something to encourage in others and something to do as a professional activity for myself. I tried to learn from Becky and many others in the wonderful RA world about how best to work with readers and to use my knowledge of authors and books and genres to help them maximize and enjoy their reading time and experiences. I loved classifying nonfiction books and authors so much that I eventually wrote several guide books on the subject, including The Real Story (about nonfiction reading interests and genres) and The Inside Scoop (about investigative and journalistic books).  

Increasingly it becomes clear to me that stories not only help us to live, they make our lives more fun to live. I’ve decided to just give in and admit to an addiction/love affair that I’ve had all my life: with television, and more specifically, with British television. 

Today’s worries about screens and screen time focus almost primarily on kids and the time they spend on social media, but my fellow Gen-Xers and others may remember a time when the discussion was about how television was rotting our brains and turning our bodies into couch potatoes (the more things change, the more they stay the same). My farm household was also conservative, so that argument held sway there, although we of course watched the news and the weather and Bugs Bunny cartoons on Saturday morning and sometimes even Dallas while my mother was folding laundry. But none of that was enough for me, which is why by the time I was eleven and twelve, I was hiding out in my oldest brother’s room...where there was a TV on which I could secretly watch Remington Steele, starring the delectable and very Irish Pierce Brosnan. I have loved television deeply ever since. 

Which is why, after thirty years of being a TV addict and twenty years of being a British TV addict, I decided to combine my two loves (books and TV) into physical form, and published Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can’t Stop Watching (with my British friend Jackie Bailey as co-author). 

First, the details: the book is 280 pages long, it is split into genres of television (including Comedies, Dramas, Crime Dramas, Literary Adaptations, etc.), it is fully indexed by title, actor, creator, and writer names, and it includes a bunch of fun sidebars of “insider information” written by Jackie. (For example: Why are there so few guns in most British crime dramas?) It includes information on more than one hundred of the best-known, best-loved, and also the quirkiest British programs available, including information about how long it takes to bingewatch each series, who created it, who stars in it, and what some other similar programs are that you might want to watch next. Sure, it’s all information you can find online, but it’s meant to be more relaxing than a targeted search: I included trivia about each program and a little bit about what truly makes each program “bingeworthy.”  

I was a librarian and I wanted specifically to make this book a valuable tool for librarians and collection developers. I belong to several Facebook groups to which thousands of other British TV fans belong, and, although you may think the format is dead, I still read a lot of comments about how people still watch a lot of British programs on DVD (and also get them from their libraries). These are people after my heart, because I have watched thousands of hours of British television, and I wrote this book, and I did it all without ever subscribing to one streaming service. I don’t have Amazon Prime, or Netflix, or Acorn TV, or Britbox (all of which are streaming services, the latter two devoted almost exclusively to British TV). I watch broadcast TV with a converter box, because my family’s income gives us very little wiggle room. I am so grateful to be part of a library system with a fantastic physical collection of British programming. Between broadcast PBS and the South Central Library System (WI), there is very little British TV that I can’t see, and I am grateful for that for cultural reasons but also for very economic reasons. 

There is a ton of content available, and a ton of resources talking about that content, and I know a lot of viewers are happy to watch whatever their TV service of choice offers next. But there will always be people who appreciate the personal touch where recommendations are concerned, and that’s very much what Jackie and I tried to do in this book. I hope it is useful to any librarians curating their Brit TV DVD collections, as well as to any individual who wants to read it as a companion to their viewing, and to feel like they are connected to other television superfans. 

Bingeworthy British Television by Sarah Cords and Jackie Bailey, published March 2019, list price of $19.99, ISBN 978-0-9600487-0-0, is available with the standard 55% discount through IngramSpark. It is also available directly from Amazon, and I offer the standard deal that if you buy and review a copy there, just send me an email at sarah.cords@gmail.com and I’ll send you a second copy absolutely free. I should also add that I maintain the Great British TV Site at greatbritishtv.com (@GreatBritishTV at Facebook), where I post weekly rundowns of British TV headlines and news, as well as conversations with Jackie about all the latest British TV. 

Thanks so much for reading and thanks to Becky for allowing me to post here! It’s so great to speak with library professionals again. Now get out there and do that vital RA (and other!) work that you all do.