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, December 13, 2019

Becky's Backlist Best

[Yes, I meant to alliterate.]

I am always stumping for the importance of referring to backlist best lists during this time of year. Why? Because these titles are still "best," they just aren't the newest of the best.

The back list from 2-5 years ago is the "sweet spot" for reading suggestions that dazzle. Why? Because these are the titles your patrons have heard of but probably never got around to reading that year they were are on all the best lists. You remind them of a great read they missed and it is probably on the shelf [both because it isn't currently checked out and it is new enough that you haven't weeded it yet].

But most importantly, by suggesting backlist titles you are highlighting why your services are invaluable. You are giving them a great read, one they would never have found on their own, and the book and this personalized service are all included in their taxes. What a deal!

When I post the best lists of others, I comment on how easy they make finding backlist best lists, but I have not made my own as transparent.

Today I will post my personal Top 10's of the year from the last 5 years. But please note, you can easily find my backlist best lists by scrolling down to the bottom of every page's right gutter where year's of posts are archived. Over the last few years I have gone out of my way to make my personal best list the final post of each year. So a simple click the year and it will bring up my best of the year as the very first post that you see [or if not the very first when you go back further, it is in the first page].

So go back even further if you want, but below are the links to the past 5 years of my personal Top 10 Books I read in that year [they are not only books that came out in that year]. They all link to reviews so you can handsell. these titles immediately:

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Panorama Project Survey Request

Today I want to pass on the most recent survey from the Panorama Project. As regular readers know, I am involved with this initiative trying to collect data to support the fact that RA Service directly leads to book sales.

Click here for past posts on the blog about the Panorama Project.

And click here or see below to participate in this survey. It takes less than 5 minutes and you can help every library in America by responding.  Thank you in advance.

Click here to access the Panorama Project post 

The Panorama Project is focused on promoting data-informed conversations about public libraries and their impact on book discovery, author recognition, and consumer sales. One of our primary methods to help guide these conversations is conducting research on the various ways libraries engage with patrons to promote books and authors, including our overview of Readers’ Advisory Services

One of the key findings in that research was that the vast majority of public libraries explicitly market themselves as a place to discover books and get reading recommendations, and that library-hosted book groups, book talks, and author visits were key drivers of both discovery and sales. 81% of public libraries sell books at their events to attendees, and nearly 2/3rds partnered with local booksellers, ensuring they counted as consumer sales but obscuring the libraries’ full impact on those sales.

To get a better understanding of the different ways public libraries produce and host author visits—as well as literary festivals, book clubs, and other experiential events that directly connect readers to books and authors—we’ve launched a new survey: Library Events & Book Sales Survey | 2019.

This survey asks U.S. public librarians for their insights into the various book-related events they produce for their communities, how they market them, which partners they work with, and how they measure and report on the impact of these events.

If you’re a public librarian in the U.S. involved with events programming, please take 10-15 minutes to complete the survey today.

Thank you in advance for your time; we look forward to sharing our findings in early 2020.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Resource Alert: A Year in Reading via The Millions

One of my favorite end of the year events is The Millions' annual essays on "A Year in Reading."

They ask a diverse list of writers, most of them "up and coming" or a little under the general radar to write an essay for which the only requirement is that it is on the topic of their personal year in reading. The result is an enjoyable series of essays that are united by theme but vary in style and content.

The archive of every essay from throughout the years is accessible here in reverse chronological order.

These "A Year in Reading" pieces are fun to read. Any reader will enjoy perusing these essays because they are all personal accounts of what reading meant to the author in the year that just passed. Yes there are lists of books, but it is through the author's exploration of why they chose these titles, what they meant to that person, and just in general, what reading meant to them in their life over the past year that these essays viscerally communicate the power of reading. And reading about others being positively effected by the act of reading is a joy for all readers to read. [So many "reads" in that sentence.]

However, besides the personal joy you will get from reading this, there are also tangible RA and Collection Development elements to these essays.

First, there is the training you get on appeal, and why different readers like different books. One of the hardest things to get practice on in our field, is hearing readers talk about what they like to read and why. We need to gather voices from across all experiences in order to have more examples of why people like the books they like. The more examples we have experience with, the more easily we can help readers as they approach us with their inquiries. It also allows us to think more broadly about readalikes, which is one of the drums I beat frequently. This archive is a treasure trove of dozens of readers sharing their feelings on appeal.

Second, and most obvious, the lists of books that come out of the series. These are not all books that came out in 2019. These are simply the books other authors read in 2019. You will expose yourself to many titles you either haven't heard of or haven't thought about in a while, through these essays. You can even turn the entire series itself into a display using the books. "A Year in Reading" can be your title. Make a quick note about the source of the display topic and then fill it with all of the books. Use past year's titles if you run out. It will be inclusive, diverse, and whole collection by default. And, make it interactive by asking patrons to add their "Year in Reading" titles. How can they add? Up to you. If it is an online display [pic on Instagram or a Facebook discussion, eg] they can use the comments. If it is an in library display, they can use a post-it to add a title to the display or a board, or put a slip into a box. Whatever you do to make it interactive, you can then use the additional titles to extend the display and make it more local.

And third, the authors that are chosen to participate themselves are a great resource. As I mentioned above, The Millions tends to ask a diverse group of up and coming authors from across the entire landscape of writing today. Use this series to discover new authors, both to add to your collections and to suggest to patrons.

Remember to think outside of the "end of the year" box if you want your patrons to really notice and understand how you help them to discover books they would never find on their own. Yes, we need to have the more traditional "best books" displays up, but make room for some less traditional displays that not only capture those "end of the year" feels, but also, allow them to participate in a more meaningful way.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Interactive RA Idea From a School Library

One the of best ways to stay in the know when it comes to the book news and info that is most relevant to libraries is to read the work of others who are curating it for us.

One of my favorite RA specific newsletters is the Book Riot "Check Your Shelf" Newsletter, compiled by my friend and ARRT member Katie McLain Horner. Click here to sign up for it.

Katie compiles the best of the Internet from a RA perspective 2x a week. The newsletter is broken down into useable categories and there is always something there I haven't seen elsewhere and it also includes many lists and articles that we all could use immediately to help patrons.

Today she linked to an article on Passive RA in Knowledge Quest, the Journal of the American Association of School Libraries. The piece is all about how one school made their library more patron friendly so that the kids could help themselves better and find books they would love.

The entire article has useful info, some of it, things we all know [but reiteration and proof that it is working is always good] and something I never thought about but LOVE LOVE LOVE for any library to use for any age level.

From the article:
Star Stickers 
Inspired by a colleague, I decided to try this simple way of allowing students to recommend books. 

This is a brilliant Interactive RA idea! And, I think it would work with adults at the public library too. Simply have stars available at the desk and encourage people to ask for one to affix to a book they loved before they return it.

They can do it in front of you which has many layers of positive interaction. First, you can make sure they are placing the sticker correctly. Second, you can engage them in conversation about why they loved the book [a great way to start a RA conversation]. Third, you get a sense of which books are garnering patron stars [staff should keep a written list informally if possible] so that you can make sure to order comparable titles and promote them as readalikes. 

Even better, if you keep doing this for awhile, soon your shelves will be promoting the books for you! Patrons will walk down the aisles, passing wonderful backlist titles that normally would simply blend in with everything else. But the ones with stars will sing from the shelves, proclaiming that someone, one time loved me, why don't you give me a try too. Sounds like backlist heaven.

Not only does this idea allow your backlist to be promoted by past satisfied readers visually, but it also can be a tool for you to build a display of "patron picks" in the future, a display that is bound to be varied and diverse because there are no artificial guidelines. It is 100% patron driven.

If you do this star thing for at least a year, you should have enough titles that a stroll up and down your stacks should reveal dozens of books to be put on a display. Just pull the titles with stars. Even better, get the entire library to do this and you have a whole collection patron picks display, one with titles for all ages and in all formats. Meaning that display will appeal to just about every patron who walks in the door.

This is a passive RA, backlist marketing tool that provides an interactive experience for your patrons, one that will better connect them to your services and your collections. I hope some of you out there try it.

Thank you Katie for passing this on. Thank you Brandi Bowers for sharing this idea. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

FREE Virtual Library CE in January Featuring Me

I know everyone is busy wrapping up 2019, but here is an opportunity in early 2020 that I don't want my readers to miss: The Wild Wisconsin Winter Web Conference.

This is a 2 day, entirely free, completely virtual library continuing education opportunity and it is open to anyone, anywhere. Again, it is FREE!

There are 4 tracks: Adult Services, Tech Trends, Library Management, Small & Mighty.  Here is the very handy table of the tracks and offerings:

Click here to access this table
All of the details, presenter bios, and program descriptions are available at the Wild Wisconsin website. Click through for details.

You can signup for everything or only for specific programs. For example, I am definitely going to sing up for the "Level Up Your Social: Social Media Trends 2020," if not more.

And after the fact, recordings and slides will be made available to all here

And as you can see here, I am presenting on 1/22 at 1pm central. I am very proud to be a part of this wonderful event.

A huge thank you every much to the organizers for offering this wonderful and useful slate of programming for everyone to enjoy free of charge. What a wonderful service to library workers [and their patrons] everywhere.

Why not get a start on your 2020 training goals today by signing up for Wild Wisconsin?

Friday, December 6, 2019

#LibFaves19 Begins Monday: An Invite For You to Join in the Best Books Fun.

ON of my favorite Twitter events begins on Monday, and I wanted to give you all enough warning to join me. #Libfaves19, the annual countdown, by library workers, of their favorite titles that were published in 2019. 

I will be there myself on Monday Tweeting out my top 10 horror titles of 2019 in order to give them a chance to be part of the overall best books conversation

In year's past, a complete list of every book mentioned during the ten day countdown has been compiled and I will share it here on the blog, with commentary, when it is ready.

But first, we need to all work together to create this massive, library worker generated best list. And to get you excited for Monday, I invited the Captain of this year's event, Andrienne Cruz, Librarian, Azusa City Library (CA), to give you all a little background and invite you to join.

Take it away Andrienne: 
With plenty of year-end book lists coming out, it’s fun for librarians to join in on the fun, after all, library workers KNOW books! The only difference is that instead of polling and voting for the best of the best (which is what LibraryReads does too), each library worker shares their own top 10 books. So the more library workers that participate, the more books that are promoted!  
This Twitter book-extravaganza first started in 2011 under the hashtag #libfavs2011. It was started by two #ewgc galley chatters*, Robin Beerbower from Salem, OR Library and Stephanie Chase from Multnomah County [OR] Library. The most popular book that library workers shared in 2011 was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
The list has grown through the years. In 2012, 689 books were mentioned, 399 of those were unique titles. By2018, there were 1,873 books mentioned, 875 of those were unique titles. That is a lot of books to discover!  
A lot of library workers who want to join frequently ask, “Do we only share books that were published in the current year?” The answer is yes, because the goal is to highlight and promote discovery of new and fantastic books that librarians read for the year that the list comes out.
To participate on Twitter, library workers will mention one title per day for ten consecutive days from Dec. 9th to Dec. 18th and tag their tweets with #libfaves19. Titles must be in CAPS (for easy readability on the part of the monitor). Volunteers will monitor the titles up until 9 P.M. Pacific Time on Dec. 18th. The list of all the books will be shared on Dec. 19th.  
#Libfaves19 is open to any and all library workers, so it might be helpful if participants indicate that they are library workers in their Twitter profile for the duration of the event to ensure their vote is counted.  
It is also preferred that books shared during this period be adult fiction or nonfiction, but library workers read and love everything, so as long as it was published in 2019, share any book you want.
*#ewgc is a monthly Twitter chat headed by Nora Rawlinson, founder of Earlyword.com where library workers talk about forthcoming books that they are excited about.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Two Twists on Best of the Decade

There are many "Best of the Decade" lists coming out alongside the usual "Best of the Year" barrage. Today I would like to highlight my two favorite "Best of the Decade" archives that I think have a "twist," one that will help you do your job better [and not just overwhelm you with more lists].

First up is Paste Magazine's End of the Decade Archive. As all of you know, our work while primarily concerned with reading, requires we be aware of more than just books.  We need to be up on all pop culture, at least know a little bit about what is popular. That is why I love Paste's coverage here. It spans all popular culture. Books [in general and by genre], video games, tv shows, movies and so much more. Even best Memes! This is the best place to go to get a full picture of the arts and culture of the 2010s. Just a cursory glance will allow you to get up to speed on the decade that was. Not to mention provide you with dozens of suggestions for patrons in a variety of formats.

The second one is more book focused. It's Lit Hub's comprehensive coverage of The Best of the Decade which they have archived here. Each list is 10 books long with a useful annotation as to "why" it was chosen AND there is an honorable mention list for each list. There are enough books in each category for their own display, but there are two specific lists they have done which I am extra excited about precisely because they take the entire concept and give it a satisfying twist:

These two lists are pure genius. You can suggest these books to patrons easily. Just the titles alone are your soundbite to start a conversation with a reader. BUT, both are also a great option for interactive displays.

You can put up a display with these titles, using the books included to fill it and then ask patrons to share their titles that either more people should read or will still be reading in 10 years.  Do the questions separately though as two different displays.

Do this in the library and provide a board for people to post their additions or on your website or as a social media post and ask for comments. Then you can take the answers and make another display of, for example, "Books from the Last Decade That Our Patrons Think More People Should Read."

I'll even go first and you can include me as one of your patrons. For a book from the last decade that more people should read, I nominate Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. And for a book that will still be read in 10 years, I am going to pick a horror title for this, one that will still be read by horror fans for years to come...A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. It is THE horror novel of the Decade in my opinion. And I think it will become the entry point for readers new to the genre for years to come.

Now is your turn. Have fun with these lists. Suggest the titles, make displays, and use them anytime of year to make suggestions. We are talking about titles that have already stood the test of time, so suggesting them in 5 months, a year, or even like the title says, 10 years from now, they clearly make for a great suggestion.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Library Reads: Favorites of 2019

I normally have standard language I put before the monthly Library Reads list here on the blog, but today's list is a bit different; therefore, I am shaking things up.

Today, the 2019 Voter Favorites were announced-- the Top 10 titles of the year as chosen from the 12 months of lists. 

This is a fun twist on a "best" list because this is OUR list, and as you can see below or here, it is different from many other 2019 "best" lists because it combines genres, nonfiction, and of course, contains multiple titles about books and or libraries. [We are nothing if not true to form.]

Enjoy this year end list, but don't forget to use the archive of every title from every list for a treasure trove of hundreds of titles you can confidently suggest to patrons both because your fellow library workers also liked them and because there is a provided sound bite making it easy for you to hand sell every title. 

Announcing the Voter Favorites 2019!

You voted, we counted, and 2019's Voter Favorite is:

The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
(Simon and Schuster)
“An investigation of the fire that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 evolves into a page-turning history of the immense impact libraries and books have had throughout time. Profoundly moving and enlightening, and a clear call to readers to appreciate and support their libraries. For readers who enjoy high-quality narrative nonfiction.”
Jesica Sweedler DeHart, Neill Public Library, Pullman, WA

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
A Novel
by Kim Michele Richardson (Sourcebooks Landmark)

“Blue-skinned Cussie brings books via horseback to rural, racially intolerant Kentucky in the 1930s. Her efforts demonstrate that people crave intellectual stimulation even when they are poverty stricken in a food desert. For fans of Sandra Dallas and Lee Smith.”

—Courtenay Reece, Millville Public Library, Millville, NJ

Daisy Jones & the Six
A Novelby Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books)

"Like the best episodes of Behind the Music, this chronicle of the rise and fall of a fictional ’70s rock group is impossible to resist. You'll be tempted to look up the band's hits, only to disappointedly remember that they don't exist. A great rock ’n’ roll ride for readers."

—Becky Bowen, Kenton County Public Library, Erlanger, KY

The Dutch House
by Ann Patchett (Harper)

"For siblings Danny and Maeve, the Dutch house is much more than a structure. It is the bones of their family, a symbol connected to love, loss, achievement, and abandonment. They are connected to this house all their lives, even after being flung out of it. For fans of Anne Tyler and Anna Quindlen."

—Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

Evvie Drake Starts Over
A Novel
by Linda Holmes

(Ballantine Books)

“Relationships are hard, whether with a spouse, a best friend, a new love interest, or ourselves. Evvie navigates all of these after a life-changing series of events. An engaging novel that explores relationship nuances without being too dark or too cutesy. For fans of Jenny Colgan, Cecilia Ahern, and Sophie Kinsella.”

—Maribeth Fisher, Scotch Plains Public Library, Scotch Plains, NJ

The Flatshare
A Novel
by Beth O'Leary (Flatiron Books)

“In this entertaining and humorous romance, Tiffy and Leon share a flat, but have never met. Who says you can't fall in love if your only communication has been through Post-It notes? For fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating.”

—Kelly Moore, Carrollton Public Library, Carrollton, TX

My Sister, the Serial Killer
A Novel
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
“Nigerian nurse Korede puts up with so much from her sister Ayoola (the serial killer). Braithwaite tells a dark, lively, and funny story of how begrudgingly cleaning up after someone else's deadly habits is just one of those things one does for family. For fans of satirical humor.”
—Lisa Hoffman, Bloomfield Public Library, Bloomfield, NJ

The Nickel Boys
A Novel
by Colson Whitehead

"An incredibly powerful story about an abusive boys' reform school in the 1960s. Whitehead skillfully brings each character to life even as they suffer physical and emotional horrors. For fans of Panopticon by Jenni Fagan."

—Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL

Red, White, and Royal Blue
A Novel
by Casey McQuiston (St. Martin's Griffin)

"First Son Alex Claremont- Diaz is in his last semester of university and has an antagonistic relationship with Prince Henry of Wales. But friendship and then love blossoms when they are forced to pretend to be buddies after an embarrassing altercation. For fans of a good rom- com."

—Nita Gill, Brookings Public Library, Brookings, SD

The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides (Celadon Books)
“Led on a dark path, readers will quickly guess that there's more to Alicia's story than what meets the eye. But the big surprises lie in the deep betrayals and the shock of an ending. Dark, twisted, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Ruth Ware.”
—Amy Fellows, Multnomah County Library, Portland,OR

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

NPR Book Concierge 2019 Released and It Is Even Better Than Ever

This is my favorite best list of the year-- NPR's Book Concierge. Why? Because not only do they make sure to get a wide representation of books from a variety of formats, reading levels, and genres, but they also allow the person using the list to customize their choices. It is a patron focused, interactive best list like no other.

Filters can be applied and removed at will to find a great choice for any reader. And the filter choices include genre and appeal options. 

But this year, it is even better because the access to all 7 years of the Book Concierge are easily accessible and searchable. Meaning you have access to over 2000 "best" titles. 

Besides using this resource to help readers find the best "best" book for them, you can also use this enhanced resource to create dynamic displays. How? Well, you can apply the same filters across multiple years. For example, I clicked the "Eye-Opening Reads" filter and got a great list of 2019 titles in fiction, nonfiction and for all age levels. Then I clicked the 2018 tab at the top and immediately saw the "Eye-Opening Reads" from that year. Click on 2017 and repeat down the line. 

You now have a title for your display-- "Eye-Opening Reads" and a huge collection of varied and inclusive titles to fill it. You can do this over and over again all year long by employing different filters. You will never run out of display ideas or titles to fill them with if you use this resource. You can also pick multiple filters for smaller, more targeted displays. 

Okay enough from me. Stop reading this and just go use it. Today, tomorrow, and 5 months from now. With the backlist options you have no excuse not to help even the pickiest of patrons. And again, not just during this "best" season, but all the year through.

NPR's Favorite Books Of 2019: The Book Concierge Is Back With 350+ Great Reads

Monday, December 2, 2019

What I'm Reading: The Boatman's Daughter

Today I have my latest Booklist review and it is so good that I am calling it now-- this title will be among the best books of 2020 next year. Think I'm overreacting? Well, when this author's first book came out, I knew absolutely nothing about the author or the book and it blew me away immediately. That title went on to be one of the most critically acclaimed horror debuts of the year and led to the author signing a 2 book, major publisher deal. [Links below] So, lesson here: listen to Becky. and read the review below, which as always is my longer, draft review with added information to help you help patrons. You don't want to get behind the curve so early in the year.

The Boatman’s Daughter.

Davidson, Andy (author).

Feb. 2020. 416p. Farrar/MCD, paper, $16 (9780374538552)
First published December 1, 2019 (Booklist).
Davidson [In the Valley of the Sun] presents another hauntingly lyrical story that is dripping with atmosphere, in which the complicated characters and foreboding setting take the lead, draw readers in and envelope them in this brutal yet beautiful tale. Told through an omniscient lens, readers are introduced to a broken town, deep in the bayous and along the river banks of Southwestern Arkansas. Miranda ferries contraband for a corrupt sheriff and a neerdowell preacher, trying her best to make a living among the dense forests, winding rivers, and run down buildings. A stormy, tragic evening, 11 years prior, set Miranda's life on this path, and she cannot break free for many reasons, some apparent, some hidden by or from her, and even a few that are tied down by a dark magic. The novel, centered around Miriam’s final three runs, uses these criminal endeavours to tell the story of the interconnected characters and a place across generations, revealing the sins, secrets and magic, recounting brutal violence and desperation but also love and forgiveness. It is a story of monsters, both human and supernatural, where no one is innocent and yet, the lines between good and evil are still clearly drawn. Told with a restraint in the narration, a storytelling style where no detail is unnecessary, a slow burn that explodes at the novel’s mid-point, making room for the plot and the pacing to breathe and unravel toward the novel’s satisfying conclusion, this is a confidently told narrative that fully embraces its roots in the horror genre while also claiming a rightful place alongside Southern Gothic classics of the 21st Century such as Sing, Unburied, Sing by Ward, Winter’s Bone by Woodrell, and A Land More Kind Than Home by Cash.  

Further Appeal:  This is Davidson's second novel and I am telling you, I LOVED his debut, but this one is better. It is a crime novel with a fairy tale, timeless feel [although it appears to be 1979-80 where the "present" action takes place, if you follow the scant clues and do the math]. And there are  non-negotiable supernatural elements. This is not a Tremblay book where it could be real or it could be supernatural and you get to decide...Nope. There are monsters here. Actual monsters.

I would like to address the timeless, fairy tale tone. I tried to portray that feel in the review but I don't get many words and I wanted to make sure to be explicit here. It is Southern Gothic meets Fairytale.

The book builds world details and characters relentlessly for the first half of the book. The storytelling moves it along, but it is at a steady, not brisk pace. And the thing is, the details will all matter....every...single...one. There is a literally breaking point in the middle of the book [almost exactly] where the story explodes and races to its conclusion.

The Boatman's Daughter is an immersive reading experience that will envelop readers in every facet, with its setting, characters, storyline, tone, message, all of it. And it will leave you thinking about many real world issues in its wake.

Three Words That Describe This Book: lyrical, haunting, complex characters

Readalikes: I give you three above. I also have more in the In the Valley of the Sun review. Check all of those out. But the three in the review, taken together represent this title very well. Also, those 3 readalikes are all titles that have done very well with a public library audience; therefore, I would argue, so will this one.

I also think that fans of Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton or anything by Karen Russell will enjoy this title too. In fact, I also love Russell and that link goes to any time I have mentioned her as a readalike or reviewed her books, leading you to many more options.

I would also like to mention how happy I have been with the books under the MCDxFSG imprint. I would highly suggest anything that comes from them. I recently reviewed Tinfoil Butterfly by Moulton and I am a huge fan of The Grip of It by Jemc. But all of the titles. They are all different in plot, but very similar in feel. They are all atmospheric, lyrical, character centered, and very unsettling. I don't usually make an overarching "imprint" readalike but MCD as an imprint is a great resource for more readalikes, at least right now.