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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reading Your Favorite Author's Favorites

Many readers have favorite authors; authors for which they have already devoured every title and are eagerly anticipating the release of another book. A great way to help these readers is to point them in the direction of their favorite author's favorite titles.

There are many ways to locate these titles. First and foremost are author interviews. Barnes and Noble has a great collection archived under Meet the Writers. Each author (with a few exceptions) lists books they themselves have enjoyed. You can browse authors by name or genre.

NPR interviewers generally ask authors what they like to read. If you go to their main page and search by author name you will get a list of any and all shows in which that author was discussed. You will get written articles as well as audio feeds. Take this entry for Jhumpa Lahiri as an example. She discusses her interest in Nathaniel Hawthorne and another critic mentions her similarities to Chekhov. The article ends with links to other "Related Stories" all about Lahiri.

Finally, I would also like to mention the wonderful British based resource Fantastic Fiction. There are entries for over 10,000 authors in a wide range of genres (not just fantasy). Each author entry ends with author recommendations. Click here to see Stephen King's (you must scroll the the bottom of the entry).

There are many other resources which compile author interviews. Even a quick google search of an author's name and the word "interview" will give you plenty of information to sift through. The key here is simply to remember that for readers who really love a certain author, that writer's favorite titles are a great RA resource.

Berwyn Library Shelfari Update

We continue to add content to the Berwyn Public Library's Shelfari Group entitled RA Reading Logs at the Berwyn Public Library. You can look at the shelves of any member, including mine, without having to sign-up.

This past week, Kathy was quoted in the Libraries Unlimited Readers' Advisory Blog about how we are using Shelfari to record our reading and help our patrons. Click here to go to the blog and look for the RA Rundown post dated 4/27/08 for the full info. But here is a link to the full discussion on using Shelfari at your library (including her post) from the Fiction-L archives.

Shelfari really should be paying me for all of the press I am giving them. But seriously, they are providing a great free service that our library can use to enhance our customer service. Check it out for yourself. Our staff would love to help you find your next good read whether or not you live in Berwyn.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Take Ten: Fantasy for The Rest of Us

One of the best things to come out of the popularity of Harry Potter with adults is the renewed interest in fantasy. However, I have found that these more casual fantasy readers are looking for something different in their leisure reading.

Thus, in an attempt to help those readers who are looking for a little slice of magic in their grown-up novels, I created this list of 10 Fantasy Books for the Rest of Us. It will be part of a display entitled Fantasy and Science Fiction for beginners that will go up at the Berwyn Library in May.

Enjoy the sneak peek. You will have to wait a few weeks for its Science Fiction counterpart.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Book Discussion: The Lemon Tree

Today at the Berwyn Public Library, we discussed The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. This Nonfiction title begins in 1967 as three young Arab men sneak back into Jewish Israel in order to see the homes they were forced to abandon in 1948. The men had no luck at the first two homes, but at Bashir's former home, the one with the lemon tree planted by his father, a young Israeli college student, Dalia, opens the door and lets the young men in. So begins a dialog between the two which continues despite bombings, exiles, and imprisonments. Tolan tells Dahlia and Bashir's stories, recounts their histories, and explains the minutia of the conflict from the 1930s to the present day.

The main theme of Tolan's book is an encouragement of mutual witness and empathy for the story of the "other." Our group was most impressed by this point. We were all awed by Tolan's ability to be fair and tell both sides of the conflict. Many people in the group expressed how difficult it was, until recently, to hear the Arab side of the story. This also led to an interesting discussion about how much easier it is for Americans of European descent (like our group participants) to identify with the Jewish perspective because of our shared cultural backgrounds. A book like this was appreciated for its ability to let the reader into the Palestinian history and perspective in a way that they had never experienced before.

A large potion of our discussion focused on how "uplifting" this book was or was not. Many participants felt drained by the seemingly endless cycle of violence and how it perpetuates itself. The Lemon Tree is marketed as a hopeful story of the power of dialog between enemies; however, despite their willingness to stay in touch, Bashir and Dalia are never able to bridge the chasm of their ideological differences. One participant brought up the Northern Ireland conflict as an example of hopefulness. She never thought she would see an end to that conflict, but time and continued dialog was able to bring peace.

We also talked about the dialog model as having other applications. For example, a participant thought it would work well as a way to deal with race issues in America. This led to talk of using this book as a teaching tool in high schools. Today's students will be tomorrow's leaders, those who may be able to solve this conflict, a conflict which all present agreed began because America and Great Britain did not handle things properly back in 1948.

We also spent a great deal of time discussing how humans always persecute each other. A few participants were disheartened by all of the wars and killing done in the name of all religions over the entirety of human history. One person mentioned the book You Don't Have to be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism by Bruce Hirschfield as a starting point for ending this cycle.

As you can see, we had quite a discussion. Although I brought this discussion guide with me, I barely used it.

There are many readalike options for those who enjoyed The Lemon Tree. There are a lot of nonfiction books about this specific conflict which one can find here. However, I would also suggest books about examples of dialog amidst war such as Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time in which the author builds schools in rural Pakistan.

In fiction, there are also many paths to follow. Books by Amos Oz, who is mentioned in The Lemon Tree and The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer are clearly tied by subject, but other titles, as varied as Half a Yellow Sun and The Quiet American are readalikes based more on the theme of our discussion title.

Finally, I would also like to suggest Joe Sacco's extraordinary graphic novel Palestine, now with an expanded edition. This work is a series of illustrated interviews with Palestinian refugees.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Library Week

This is the week designated by the American Library Association as National Library Week. Please take a moment to thank the librarians in your life for all they do
If you work in a library, thank your co-workers for all they do to help you and the patrons your library serves.

To put you all in the celebratory mood, check out the library based comic strip Unshelved.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Take Ten: Theater Fiction

Here is the first Take Ten list for April. It is a list of "Books for Theater Folks" to be found at this link.

This list was done by Lisette as a list to be presented to the participants of an amateur theater group who meet at her (fictional) public library. As an interesting side note, Lisette did do some research and found out that there is such a group Alabama.

Spanning Genres

Irish novelist John Banville has written many critically acclaimed literary fiction novels, including the Booker Prize winner, The Sea. However, he is experiencing the largest readership of his career with his noir suspense novels written under the pen name, Benjamin Black.

Here is a link to an audio interview with Banville from NPR's Morning Edition where Banville discusses the pros and cons of genre labels.

I found his discussing of how long it takes him to write a "Banville" novel, versus the speed at which he puts out a "Black" novel quite interesting.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Too often poetry readers get left out of the RA discussion. In my library it happens mostly because our poetry is not shelved in my department. However, every semester, at least one of my students brings up the issue.

This semester, Marisa has passed on a wonderful tool to use with your poetry readers. It is the Academy of American Poets home page, and specifically their recommended reading list found here. There is also the Poetry Foundation's page.

April, as well as being National Poetry month is also the month in which the annual Pulitzer Prizes are announced, which, of course, include prizes for poetry. This is one of the only times during the year when people notice prize winning poetry on a national stage. So also check out this year's winners and the archived list of winners going back to 1917 at this link.

And please, don't forget about poetry when attending to the reading needs of your patrons and yourself.

Monday, April 7, 2008

BPL Displays for April 2008

This month BPL has displays for National Library Week and the always popular Staff Picks.

This is the last month I will be hosting our wonderful display lists. In May, look for the BPL Displays links to go directly to our newly refurbished website.

Friday, April 4, 2008

National Library Week

National Library Week is coming (April 13-19) and the ALA has put up some amusing videos promoting library service on their website.

If you work at a library, you may want to consider posting these on your website. If you are simply a library fan, play them for your friends and family. They are fun and informative, much like your local librarian.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Additions to My Shelfari Shelf

I am experimenting with doing even more with my Shelfari account. I am now cross posting the books I have read and reported on here. There are many reasons to do this. First, it promotes this blog on Shelfari and leads those users here where I can remind them (as I do you) of all the ways your local public library can enhance your reading experience.

But the second and more important reason is that the newly redesigned BPL web site will be up and running next week and our department is looking into how Shelfari can update our staff reading logs. BPL was one of the first public libraries to put narrative descriptions of what our staff was reading on the web. This was back in 2001 and way before Web 2.0 made it easy. We have continued to update this impressive collection of reading logs here, but with our new web site, we can now consider new ways of doing this. Ways that take better advantage of Web 2.0 capabilities and functions.

Shelfari allows you to visually display your books and easily add comments about them. BPL could also create a group so that our books are all found in one place. It is a very exciting prospect that we will be pursuing in the next few months. If you head over to their site and sign up for a free account, you can look at my shelf and those of any other user to see for yourself. (Search for Becky Spratford and you'll find my shelf)