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.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

BPL Display List: Family Fiction Favs

This is the first of many display lists from the Berwyn Public Library. For every display we put up, one staff member makes at least one annotated list to highlight the theme we have chosen.

We are in the process of a complete overhaul of our web site at the library, so for now I will be hosting the lists on my Dominican University server space. However, sometime next year, I will begin linking directly to our web site.

Enough explanation, here is the info on the list. In honor of Thanksgiving, Kathy did a "Family Fiction" display and then annotated this list of 10 books. Turns out, the most popular family stories deal with dysfunction.

Remember, you local library will be open over the holidays while you are off of work. Run on over and grab one of these titles, or ask your librarian for help finding the right book for you.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Favorite Books I Read This Year

In the spirit of all of the best lists of the year, I will list my favorite 10 books which I read this year. Note, they all did not come out this year, and they are not in any order. For those that I read since September, I will link to the blog entry on the book. For the others, the link will go to Amazon. I have also put down the genre and month in which I read each.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (short stories) 12/07
Finn by Jon Clinch (historical fiction) 11/07
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (literary fiction) 9/07
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs (nonfiction) 11/07
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (mystery) 10/07
Falling Man by Don DeLillo (literary) 7/07
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (literary fiction) 5/07
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (gothic novel) 2/07
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (dystopian sf) 2/07
Manhunt: The 12-Day Search for Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson (nonfiction) 3/07

A few of these books came out this year, but not all. I love reading the best of 2007 lists, but those are not necessarily the books everyone was reading in 2007. Most readers, and most of your patrons, will read the titles that most interest them from those "best" lists in 2008. When helping leisure readers it is important to make this distinction. A book does not have to be "new" in order for it to have made an impression recently.

What were the favorite books you read in 2007? Feel free to share.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Student Annotations: Literary Fiction

Here are 2 more student annotations. Both of these titles are great book discussion books. In fact, click here to go to the page on this blog where I wrote about my group's discussion of Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Friday, December 7, 2007

Student Annotations: Gentle Reads and Comments on Genre

Here is another student annotation. This time it is a gentle read by a classic author.

The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge

Goudge is available in most public libraries and her stories are perfect for those readers seeking a nostalgic read. This is an important time to mention that Gentle Reads are not unsophisticated reads. These are simply stories without sex and violence but also generally without all of the "noise" of modern life (cell phones, computers, blackberries, etc...). These are for people who want a good story, or for those who complain that, "They just don't write stories like they used to anymore."

Other gentle read authors who are writing right now are Jennifer Chiaverini, Philip Gulley, and the very popular Adriana Trigiani. Don't forget Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series too.

Gentle reads become quite popular during the busy holiday season. So, remember these authors for your harried readers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Student Annotations: Literary Fiction

Here are two student annotations for popular literary fiction titles.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Monday, December 3, 2007

What I'm Reading November 2007

Another month is over and here is a write up of three of the books I read this month. I actually hit three different genres in this list too.

This month I listened to Finn by Jon Clinch. This is a first novel, retelling of Huckleberry Finn from his Dad's point of view. Clinch's story draws heavily upon the text of Twain's work and he fills in the gaps between the few scenes where father and son have encounters and then builds around them leading to Finn's death. The story does include the frequent use of flashbacks. The story is told in almost a "back and forth" motion. The narration slips between the story of Finn and his black common-law wife's life and his present situation. This was slightly confusing in audio format, but I did catch on after a bit.

Overall, I loved the idea of Clinch taking a well known classic and giving us his take on a different side of the story. I do need to say though that there area a few shocking scenes of brutality, murder, and violence against children in this novel, which should not be surprising since Finn is not the most upstanding citizen. And although Finn gets his say in this novel, the reader is not expected to sympathize completely with him. Finally, in this novel (and I am not giving much away since this is revealed early on), Clinch imagines Huck as a mulatto. But please make no mistake, this is a dark and violent book that would be shocking to many Twain lovers.

When listening to the audio, there is a fairly long conversation between the narrator and the author at the end. Clinch answers a lot of questions about the research he has done and why he made some of the decisions he did. Even if you read this novel, the last disc of the audio is worth a listen. Finn is also beginning to turn up on many of this year's "Best" lists.

Obviously, after completing Finn, many readers are going to turn to the source material The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. But other "Classics Revisited" novels might appeal to those who enjoyed Finn. A good match would be Geraldine Brooks' March which is a retelling of Little Women from the absent father's point of view.

On a completely different note, I also read AJ Jacobs' new bestseller, The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. In his previous memoir, Jacobs, the Editor-at-Large for Esquire spent a year reading the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica. Here Jacobs attempts to do as the title states. He spends 9 of the 12 months on the Old Testament and makes trips to Israel, Amish Country, Evangelical Churches, and Hassidic rituals. Jacobs grows a beard, tries not to covet anything, never lie, and wear biblical clothing. Throughout his experiment, Jacobs is also commenting on modern, secular life, his own feelings about religion, and his family life, including his wife's pregnancy.

I thoroughly enjoyed both Jacobs' experiment and his prose. This book definitely has a leftist lean (which Jacobs owns up to) which I would make sure people knew ahead of time. Also, Jacobs is neurotic with bad OCD (again he owns up to it), but some readers of his books are put off by it. I would suggest this book to anyone interested in the relevance of biblical laws in modern America.

For those who enjoyed Jacobs' experiment, try reading his other memoir, The Know-it-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. However, if you are a reader who enjoyed the biblical aspect specifically, there is Bruce Feiler's Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses.

Finally, this month I also read Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn which is the suspense sequel to Case Histories. In One Good Turn we again follow former police inspector and PI Jackson Brodie, but this time he is a bit more of a supporting player. Jackson is in Scotland for a theater festival with his girlfriend and gets himself tangled into a nasty conspiracy involving a corrupt builder, foreign maids, road rage, and murder. Like Case Histories the story is told from multiple points of view: Jackson's, the wife of a home builder, a female police inspector, and a mystery writer. It was a very satisfying suspense story with a tidy resolution.

Readers who like Atkinson's character heavy/literary suspense novels may also enjoy the Russian suspense writer Boris Akunin and his novel The Winter Queen. Here a seemingly routine suicide investigation leads to deeper secrets. Peter Hoeg also writes literary suspense. Try Smilla's Sense of Snow. My co-worked Kathy helped with these readalikes. Thanks Kathy.