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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading Maps Archive

Our students turned in their finals last night and we got some more reading maps from a couple of them. I have discussed reading maps in the past here and in March, I gave a short lecture/how-to talk to the class about creating one of their own.

Now that we have a small collection, I have set up a permanent archive of reading maps to be used by my students, or any of you, at any time. Besides the link provided here, you can always access the most up-to-date version of the archive in my list of links or at the LIS 763 Word Press blog in the provided blogroll.

Now that I am archiving them over on Word Press, please send me any links you have to interesting reading maps. Any additions will be added as I receive them.

To get you inspired, here are the direct links for some of our students' maps:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to classify Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry?

So last night while my husband and I were making dinner we were discussing how to classify the new "supernatural thriller," by Jonathan Maberry, Patient Zero. Here is the plot: Joe Ledger, a cop, kills a terrorist in a bust at a warehouse. Ledger is set to join the FBI in a few days, but after the bust, he is brought into a new super-secret government agency, the Department of Military Science (DMS) where he is confronted with the same terrorist he just killed, except now he is a zombie. It turns out, some Arab scientists (with the help of a very rich, and very evil, American) have created a disease that turns people into zombies. Joe and his team must fight to save the world from these zombies.

OK, so first thing I am thinking is horror or biomedical/terrorism thriller? It has the scientific explanation which takes away the supernatural elements necessary to be true horror, but this book is fear inducing. It provokes a sense of terror in the reader which does not go away when you close the book. Let's put it this way, I am also listening to Brad Meltzer's Book of Fate right now, which is a political thriller, and Maberry's story feels more real to me. Melter's thriller is solid, but Maberry's is terrifyingly realistic.

But Patient Zero also has the hallmarks of a traditional thriller or suspense book: the time and date stamping, the details of law enforcement, the terrorism angle, and the extremely fast pacing.

Back to the discussion with my husband. He pointed out that the movie 28 Days Later (and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which, by the way, is scarier) has a similar plot--virus which turns people into zombies--and that movie is definitely horror, not thriller. He is right, and the characters in Maberry's book agree. Joe Ledger mentions it is as if someone watched 28 Days Later and then set out to do it. (Did I also mention that our kids were watching an old Muppet Show with Vincent Price while we were having this discussion? We are a bit odd, I know. But at least we are all okay with the horror thing.)

I have not finished the book yet. I will later today. I think I am leaning towards classifying this as horror. Zombie books generally have more of a scientific bent and yet, are mostly considered horror. Also, Maberry has written many award-winning horror books (both fiction and nonfiction). He is very good at the key horror author trait of inducing fear in the reader. On the other side of the argument, it also reads very much like a James Rollins adventure-thriller, and I never think of Rollins' novels as horror.

All of this is making me think about the emergence of many books like Patient Zero which are becoming harder to classify as supernatural elements creep into all genres. In this case I am thinking of calling books like Patient Zero investigative horror in my new book. I don't like using "supernatural thriller," the term used to market this book, because it downplays the horror elements as being noted merely by the presence of the supernatural. This is too simplistic, and it belittles the genre of horror itself. A horror book can be good and appealing to non-horror readers without the word horror being forcibly removed from its description. The key to the appeal of Patient Zero is the emotions the book draws out of the reader, not the pacing (which is pretty fast) or the law enforcement details (which are both key marks of a thriller.)

In a few days when I write about what I read this month, I will make a final determination. In the meantime if you want to read a realistic, terrorism thriller, with zombies, that will keep you looking over your shoulder for the next week, try Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shirley Jackson Awards

The Shirley Jackson Awards are given annually "for outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic." Click here for the ballot.

Here is a link to a prettier version of the novel and novella nominees from Early Word.

For the record, the novels and stories of Shirley Jackson are still worth reading. Most public libraries at least have copies of The Haunting of Hill House and the story "The Lottery" on their shelves, despite their mid-20th century copyright dates. Both are as frightening and unnerving as any of the titles up for her award this year.

Another reminder to never forget the back list of titles always available at your local library.

Monday, April 27, 2009

BPL Display: May 2009

Just in time for the summer movie season to begin in earnest, Kathy put up a display of books made into movies call "Now Playing at the Berwyn Public Library."

We have dozens more suggestions, in just about every imaginable genre for those who come in to the Berwyn Library and check out the display.


Friday, April 24, 2009

BPL Book Discussion: P.S.

This month the BPL Book Discussion group tried something new, we read Studs Terkel's last book, P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening. Terkel chose these short essays, interviews, and transcripts for inclusion in this slim volume before his death in October of 2008. What made this book "new" for our group is that it was the first time we discussed a work without a single narrative. I told the group that since there wasn't a continuous story, if you didn't enjoy an essay, just skip it and try the next. This worked for some participants, but others felt they had to read every word, even if they weren't into it; these readers got less enjoyment out of the work.

Since we are also a Chicago area group, some of the essays about the "uniqueness" of Chicago politics and the essays detailing the segregation of our city were "old news" to the 55+ aged participants. However, by far the most talked about essays were the interview with James Baldwin, the interview with the "white trash" (her words) woman in Uptown, and the collection of regular people's remembrances of their lives during the depression (recounted to Terkel in 1970-71).

Before I talk about specific discussion points, I should mention that there are no pre-prepared discussion questions for this book. Using this trusty general question list from the Fiction-L Archives and my own brain power I came up with the following questions to use in guiding the discussion (feel free to use them if your group does this book):
  1. Studs Terkel is a listener. He recounts what others say, without much editing. His voice is secondary. So, how did you feel about his writing style and the organization of this book?
  2. Did you find Terkel's subjects and the serious issues they are discussing uplifting or depressing? Why.
  3. Which essays or people ("characters") did you most enjoy? With which did you most identify? Sympathize? Were there any characters which you disliked?
  4. How is Chicago portrayed in P.S.? Was it a fair depiction? Did you learn something new about our city?
  5. Despite that fact that P.S. is a collection of essays, interviews, and radio show transcripts written over many years, this book still presents a unified message. What are the major themes of this work?
  6. How would you characterize the relationship between Studs Terkel and his subjects?
  7. What are the most revealing scenes in P.S.?
  8. One of the longer chapters in P.S. consists of recollection by "survivors" of the Great Depression collected by Terkel in the early 1970s. How do these statements read to you today in these difficult economic times, the worst since the Great Depression? What advice can we learn from these people?
  9. With Studs Terkel's passing who will take up his crusade of collecting the voices of regular people? How will they do it? What technology will they use and how will they spread their message?
From these 9 questions, we had a wide ranging discussion. The very first comment we had about the book is how Terkel makes you think about things differently. Since he really listens to people and gets at their "essence;" you get a different perspective on the issues. Our first example was Terkel's interview with James Baldwin. We were all struck by Baldwin's revelations about being a black man at a very difficult time in history. For example, Baldwin talks about how when he lived in America, he never wanted to eat watermelon or listen to the Blues; he didn't want to be a walking stereotype. But living in France he was able to enjoy both, and in fact, developed an appreciation for Blues as a result. Participants shared their experiences with black friends and working in minority public schools in Chicago during this time (late 60s to early 70s).

We continued our discussion by including the interview with the poor white woman in Uptown. We talked about discrimination by class too. On participant talked about when she lived in a small Iowa town, where everyone had the same income (more or less) and they were all white, they still found ways to separate into groups and look down upon others (in this case by religion). This led us to make an observation about how people always look for someone to look down on.

Now as I mentioned, this book is a bit choppy. In fact, I had a few participants for whom the organization of the work made reading it a bit of a chore. However, we did all agree that the overall theme of the book is the struggle to attain "The American Dream," and the dichotomy of "2 Americas."

We also spent a great deal of time talking about the voices from the Depression. This led to a lengthy discussion on today's economic downturn. One participant said that we do not have the survival skills that the people in the 1930s had. We do not know how to garden, can food, or sew clothes. Some people shared their personal experiences as children during this time. They talked about their kids and grandkids, and how they are coping today. One woman said we cannot stop economic collapses like the one today until we make living beyond your means unfashionable. During the Depression, my ladies remarked, we didn't know we were poor. Everyone was in the same boat. Today with all of the media showing the rich and famous; people know (and feel a stigma) when they have less material objects.

We wrapped up the discussion by talking about Studs Terkel himself. As he has famously said many times, "We need to know ourselves before we know others." One participant talked about Studs the listener, and how he is the perfect example of why God gave us 2 ears and only one mouth. Another once sat next to his table at dinner and watched him in action; talking very little, asking insightful questions, and just listening to his dinner guests. We decided that Terkel showed great respect for all of the people he interviewed and as a result, gained their trust. They would share even the most terrible story with him. Various comments included that people felt uplifted by his work; he brings out the best in people; he listens without trying to on-up them; and he never judges.

We all felt sadness that we had lost such a great Chicago (and American) treasure, but we hope that with advances in technology and the ease of recording these days, that someone will come along to continue to collect the stories of regular Americans. The closest we could come up with today are the films of Ken Burns and the Story Corps initiative.

Those who read P.S. may want to go and read more Studs Terkel or listen to his old radio shows. Use this link to get to his website for a full bibliography and audio links. Many may want to also read more by and/or about James Baldwin.

The best book about The Great Depression is The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Eagan.

Terkel's writing reminded me of a few novels in feel if not completely in subject matter. Jim the Boy by Tony Earley, A Painted House by John Grisham, and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger would all make great suggestions to fans of this book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hot Books This Spring

Looking for something to read as the days warm up? Spring is always a busy release time for novels. Use the links below to explore some suggestions.

NBC posted this list of the hottest books this spring
Here is the Indie-Bound Next List for April
Check out Amazon's Spring Reading Guide

For those who want a broader view, check out Early Word's links to the major publisher's Spring/Summer catalogs.

Also, don't forget BookBrowse's List of Current Books. This list will help you identify the hottest books in hardcover as well as those new in paperback. It is updated frequently too, so you can always bookmark it and check back when you are looking for your next good read.

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 20, 2009

And The Winners Are...

It's Pulitzer Day!

Today at 2pm cdt the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes will be announced. This is the most popular prize at our library; in fact, we have a few patrons with standing holds on the winners.

I will be in book club when the winner are announced, but when I get out at 4pm cdt, I will post the winning novel and nonfiction titles.

Meanwhile, Early Word posted these predictions to get you ready.

The excitement this year is in the journalism category, where, for the first times, they are accepting non-print journalism for consideration in every category. I am excited to see if that changes who wins.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Student Annotations: Special Reading Interests

Last night our class discussed the most popular special reading interests in the Chicagoland area. So head over to our class Word Press blog for annotations on Inspirational, African American, Latino/a and GLBTQ.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Amazon and Gay Lit Problems

There has been a lot of talk over the last few days about the Amazon "mistakenly" mis-cataloging most of their gay and lesbian books as "Adult," thus stripping them of a right to have a sales ranking.

Here is an official statement from The Lamda Literary Foundation which is America's largest association of GLBTQ writers and readers.

You can also follow the story here and here.

My class is discussing GLBTQ Literature tonight (among other topics), so we will be discussing this issue, but in my opinion, this was no"mistake" as Amazon terms it. I think one employee decided to censor this literature for personal reasons and now Amazon is covering it up. A glitch is a nonjudgmental computer error that randomly attacks things; this was a targeted attack on one sphere of literature. Way too suspicious to me.

NYT Editorial About Zombies

Think I was kidding yesterday when I posted about the popularity of zombies. Yesterday, The New York Times also had zombies on the brain as they ran this editorial about the popularity of zombies and their importance as a symbol in these tough economic times.

Speaking of zombies, I am about to begin Jonathan Maberry's brand new "supernatural thriller" Patient Zero, which takes the current zombie craze one step further, by combining it with a terrorism plot line. I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zombies and Jane Austen?

So in case you have been under a rock, the biggest buzz book of the past few week's is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

It is a brilliant pairing since the works of Jane Austen have spawned their own cottage industry and zombies are the current rage in horror lit.

In fact, the only thing hotter than zombies right now are vampires.... So Mr. Grahame-Smith has jumped on that bandwagon too announcing his new book will re-imagine Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter. Check out the story from January Magazine with links to Entertainment Weekly here.

This is almost too much fun for a horror maven to bear.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy National Library Week!

Welcome to National Library Week.

Stop by your library this week and see what's new. Also, many libraries, including BPL, have fine amnesty this week. So bring in all of those overdue books and don't worry about paying the fines.

Also, tomorrow (4/14) is National Library Worker Appreciation Day. If you are at your library tomorrow, please make an effort to stop and thank the staff.

In my opinion, working in a public library in and of itself is an extremely rewarding job, but a thank you from a patron really makes our day.


Everyone is twittering about site ISBNdb.com. It is being described as the Internet Movie Database for books.

From their FAQ: ISBNdb.com gets the data in a unique way - it scans libraries all across the world for book information.... Scanned results are then parsed and stored in a searchable and browseable database that you see here on ISBNdb.com. An attempt is made at cross-indexing the database by author, publisher, category and so on. Cross indexing is still a work in progress and is likely to improve as the time goes on.

Personally and professionally, I am not impressed by this database. I do not find it very useful. However, I am well versed in all of the free and subscription databases available to search for books. I think you can get the same information in a more pleasant format from Amazon.

Try out ISBNdb for yourself.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eisner Awards: Graphic Novels

The 2009 Eisner Awards were just announced.

Given out at Comic-Con in San Diego, CA at the end of July, the Eisner Awards celebrate the best in comics and graphic novels. From the writers and illustrators, to the letterers and colorists, and everything in between, the list of nominees is a great place for both the graphic novel fan and newbie to find something interesting to read.

I read one of the nominees, Locke & Key by Joe Hill, this year and wrote about it here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

A few days ago, I posted an article from the New York Times about people buying a lot more Romance because in these hard times, a book with a guaranteed happy ending is a great choice for many readers.

However, there is also the flip side to that argument. In these tough times, some people want to read about how much worse it could be. For those readers I offer this list of Post-Apocalyptic fiction from Abe Books.

Readers, take your pick.

(For the record I chose door number 2.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Student Annotations: Nonfiction

Taught about nonfiction last night and the student annotations are up on the Word Press Blog.

By the way, we now have enough annotations posted that you can start searching for reading suggestions based on appeal. Just click on a term in the "tag cloud" on the right to find a book (or more) which received that tag.

If you are looking for more than one appeal factor, type any of the ones you see in tag cloud into the search box to identify titles that you may enjoy.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NYT Reports: Romance Sales Are Up!

In shocking news, today's New York Times has an article about a surge in the sales of romance books. Apparently, the happy-ending, escapist nature of these novels is the perfect antidote to our current tough times.

What is shocking is not that romance novels are flying off the shelves (they outstrip sales of all other books in most years; click here for proof), rather, I am shocked that the NYT is giving the often unfairly ridiculed genre its due. Well, better late than never.

Thank you romance readers for propping up the book industry in these tough economic times. All book lovers owe you some thanks. But don't forget, we are also buying romance novels in large quantities at your local library.

BPL Displays: April 2009

April marks the observance of National Library Week. This year it is during the week of April 12th, but we at the RA desk of the Berwyn Public Library are celebrating all month long with this display, "World Connect at Your Library," featuring books about far away places.

We are also going green by celebrating Earth Day with this display of titles concerning nature and the environment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Discussion Group Survey

The people over at Reading Group Guides are trying to get 7,500 responses from book group participant about their reading habits. They will share the responses with publishers.

Here is the link to the 12-15 minute survey.

The first 2,500 respondents will get a book and the rest will be put into a drawing for a free book.

Please share your thoughts with the good people over at Reading Group Guides. They provide the best book group information on the web.

Read Aloud to Children Awards

Although I work with patrons aged 16 and up, I am the mother of small children. Many of my friends ask me about good books to read aloud with their children. I usually tell them to talk to the librarians in the kids department of their public library. I go to Miss Patty all of the time asking for suggestions for my own kids.

However, today I found this link to The E.B. White Read Aloud Awards. I would suggest trying one of these nominated books, or any of the previous winners found here.

Also, here I talked about reading The Tale of Despereaux with my daughter and gave some readalike suggestions. (You'll need to scroll down to the end of the post.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Student Annotations Horror, Romance, Women's Lives, and Gentle Reads

Class again last night. If you are interested, our students posted new annotations for the genres listed above over at our class blog on Word Press.

Oh, and yes there is logic to this grouping of genres. First and foremost, they all appeal to your emotions as a reader. It just so happens that the specific emotion may be a tiny bit different for each genre.