Monday, August 31, 2009
The authors were David Baldacci, John Sandford, and Fern Michaels. In each case, the patron had read the author for the first time and wanted a list of everything he or she had written. These books are not "new" in the literal sense, but what matters is that they are new to the reader requesting them.
All three authors are current best sellers who are widely represented on our shelves. More importantly, their older books are good reads. And we have (or can get in 3-5 days) each any every book these prolific authors have written at the library...for free!
Visit your local library for any books by these authors, or for a suggestion of an author that will be new to you.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Of course the horror maven that I marketed to be part of me did a flip for joy reading this essay, but the general RA librarian part of me also was excited about how Skurnick is reaching into the backlist to pull out a great read. And if you have not read it, let me tell you, Jaws is a great book.
I am in the research phase of working on the second edition of my horror reference book for ALA and one of the points this essay made me think about is how relevant the backlist is for horror readers. For example, even though Anne Rice hasn't written a horror book in years, I get at least a question a week about her. I still give out Dracula 6-10 times a year, and the Dean Koontz and Stephen King backlists alone would keep most of our readers happy for a year or two.
The horror backlist is a treasure trove of great reads, and there are always new, young readers to discover these great titles. Just about every young reader (especially the accelerated readers) goes through a horror reading phase, so these backlist gems are a great place to lead younger readers.
Although other genres like thrillers, romance, and suspense may be more popular, I do not find the backlist for these genres to be very popular. These genres attract readers to the newest titles and series, but the older ones languish on our shelves. Mystery would be another example like horror in which the backlist is just as popular as the newest titles. For example, I put Agatha Christie and PD James books in people's hands on a regualr basis.
As horror is moving closer to the mainstream, and, as mainstream books are adding horror elements at a record pace, more readers are seeking out books to hold them over until their favorite authors come out with new titles. Pointing these readers to some great horror novels from the past will make everyone happy.
In order to help get you started, here are a few of my picks (besides Jaws) for horror backlist titles that are still "great reads." This is not by any means a comprehensive list, rather, it is here to get you started roaming the stacks at you local library looking for great horror reads that are available without putting your name on the reserve list. These are books that should also be easily available at your public library.
- The Shining (1977) by Stephen King is still the best haunted house story out there. But a close second is Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
- Twlight and Sookie Stackhouse may be all the rage at your library right now, but have you read Carmilla (1872) by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu? This Gothic vampire novel predates Dracula by 25 years, is more fun to read. Too old school for you? Go straight to the vampire novel that started the current phase of today's sympathetic, broodingly handsome vampires, Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (1976).
- Read anything by H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe. I don't think I need to say more here. Each semester I introduce at least one student to these classic authors' twisted worlds, and they have yet to disappoint even the most jaded 21st-century reader.
- Like a little bit of pseudo-science thrown in with your horror to make it a bit more believable? Try the coming of age techno-thriller Watchers (1987) by Dean Koontz. However, if you are more adventurous, get your hands on Donovan's Brain (1942) by Curt Siodmak, which went back into print after Stephen King mentioned it as one of his all time favorite horror novels. Donovan's Brain is a terrifying tale of one scientist's quest to keep a human brain alive outside of a human body.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This book is hard to classify. It is historical fiction, with supernatural, and thriller elements. Like he did in The Terror, Simmons has drawn heavily upon historical documents, including many of Dickens' letters to friends and family here. However, all letters to Dickens' it is noted, were burned by the author himself. The novel blends facts- including those surrounding the mystery of Dickens' last unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the life of Dickens and his family, the life of Wilkie Collins', the work the two authors did together and separately, and life in their world- with invented and supernatural elements such as the ghosts who haunt Wilkie Collins and an underground world of evil minions controlled through mesmerism.
This is a long book (784 pages), and its pace varies. Most of the pacing depends on our narrator's mood. Simmons portrays Collins' as a self-centered but troubled man. We read at Collins' whim; we are subject to his moods and digressions--all of which adds an interesting dimension to the book. While there are exciting chapters of adventures into tunnels under London, there are also long recreated conversations between Collins and Dickens which contemplate the state of literature at the time. There are long passages of what is basically literary criticism balanced by faster paced scenes in which Wilkie is literally battling his ghosts. There is even a bit of psychoanalysis of Dickens by Wilkie Collins in this novel.
That leads me to another big appeal, Wilkie is our narrator, but also a fascinating character himself; in fact I found him more interesting than Dickens.
Overall I enjoyed this book, it had a little bit of everything I like in a book: it was historically detailed, it had an unreliable narrator, it was dark and macabre, and it had a literary background. However, at almost 800 pages, this book is not for every reader and it does get a bit bloated and long winded at times. For the reader who finds Drood intriguing but too long, I would try to equally as well researched and much tighter The Last Dickens (which is detailed below).
Readalikes: As I mentioned, this book is very similar to Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens which I read here and you can click through to see many readalikes. These will all appeal to readers of Drood.
I will (and have) suggested Pearl's title to more readers than Simmons', although not because one is "better" than the other. Rather, Pearl's title will just appeal to a wider range of readers.
Drood did make me want to more about the peculiar Wilkie Collins, so here is a link to his Amazon page.
Getting away from the Dickens/Collins angel, readers who enjoy literary, historical and macabre tomes like The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova or the shorter The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (which I also read here) will also find Drood to their liking.
Finally a more modern book with a very similar feel, pacing, and length to Drood is Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl (which I also read here).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I have been making a huge effort to keep the blogroll on this site as small as possible, so as not to overwhelm readers. I also use Google Reader to subscribe to the feeds from about 40 other blogs that I follow on a daily basis.
So here is a sampling of some of the blogs and websites I peruse each day through RSS feeds in Google Reader. Please note, this list changes constantly; I both add and delete sites frequently. This is the list as of today.
There are many other worthy sites, and each reader or librarian needs to decide for his/herself which s/he will follow regularly or sporadically. Use the links to see the sites for yourself, and please add your favorites to the comments to continue the list.
...With Intent to Commit Horror
Blog of a Bookslut
Blogging for a Good Book (by the Williamsburg (VA) regional Library)
Booklist Online's Blogs: Likely Stories, Book Group Buzz and Audiobooker
Lit Lists (a part of the Campaign for the American Reader network)
NPR Books feed
Publisher's Weekly Latest News feed
RA Online Blog
The Rap Sheet (Crime Fiction)
Shelf Life (the book blog of Entertainment Weekly)
I also subscribe to a daily email for people in the book buying industry entitled Shelf Awareness. To subscribe you must fill out the subscription form on their site. You must be a book buyer to get the newsletter in your email box, but back issues are available to anyone here.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sarah Vowell exposes the glorious conundrums of American history and culture with wit, probity, and an irreverent sense of humor. With Assassination Vacation, she takes us on a road trip like no other -- a journey to the pit stops of American political murder and through the myriad ways they have been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural advantage.
- Vowell has a unique voice. In Assassination Vacation she recounts the history behind three
Presidents’ assassinations as she experiences them through touring places that featured significant in their lives and deaths. However, this is not a straight, chronological history.? Did you like the author’s writing style and organization? Why or Why not? US
- Assassination Vacation is only a partial history of the events surrounding the deaths of Presidents Lincoln, McKinley, and Garfield. In fact, it is part history and part travelogue into the industry created by their deaths. In this book, what do you think Vowell is trying to say about American popular culture both in the past and the present? What does she think about our obsession with both the victims and the murderers?
- What were you favorite places Vowell visited in her travels? Who were your favorite people she met along the way?
- We are taught quite a bit about
and his death in school, but McKinley and Garfield are rarely mentioned. What new things did you learn about Presidents McKinley and Garfield? Has your opinion of them changed? Lincoln
- This is a book about very public deaths, although Vowell goes to great lengths to add humor to the book. Did you find the book humorous? Did you find it ultimately uplifting or depressing?
- Did you think Assassination Vacation had enough details? What more would you like to find out about the “characters” and places in this book? Are you interested in personally visiting any of the places Vowell described?
- What are the strengths of this book? Where are its weaknesses? Would you suggest this book to a friend or another book group? Do you think this book would be a good addition to the reading list of a high school American History class? Why or why not?
- In what ways do you think this book might be controversial? Did anything about Vowell’s travelogue bother you?
- Vowell was inspired to go on her “assassination vacation,” after seeing the musical, “The Assassins.” Is there a uniquely themed vacation or tour which would interest you?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
First, post the links to any databases your library subscribes to that could possibly help your patron identify leisure reading options. Click here to see the BPL's page linking patrons to NoveList and RA Online.
Second, make a list of your favorite RA related free Internet sites and provide links to them for your patrons. You can either list them with 1-2 sentence descriptions of why you like them or put them into9 categories. Either way, simply getting them on your page to act as a guide to the Web for your patrons will be quite helpful. Again, here is an example.
Third, any lists you create for use by patrons in the library should be posted and archived on the website. I have been surprised by the number of librarians who did not think of this on their own. Lists in the library might stay up for a few weeks but on the website they can be easily archived and kept indefinitely, providing more information to your readers.
Click here and here to see examples of how we do this at the BPL.
I think if you do these three things, along with providing links for e-mail and basic contact info, will get your RA homepage started off on the right foot. And remember, this is only the beginning. You will continue to grow and add to your page all of the time. We've only been going for about 1 year with our new site and it is looking great!
Feel free to share links to your RA websites by leaving a comment here. If I get a bunch, I will compile them all into one post.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Now there is a lot of talk about the harm a big release like this will do in our current struggling economy. This post on the EW book blog "Shelf Life" has the most complete analysis of the situation outlining both sides of the argument quite well.
From the RA perspective, make sure you have your Dan Brown readalike lists ready and updated. If you need some help click here for lists to get you started. The new Dan Brown is the perfect opportunity to showcase all you have to offer in the way of leisure reading services. Knock their socks off while they wait and you will have created a life long library user.
Remind your patrons that they will get the book eventually, but that there are many other wonderful titles on the shelf right now, with no wait, that can tide them over in the meantime.
A few days before the release I will post some alternative suggestions to help, but remind people that they do not need to wait to get their names on the waiting list for The Lost Symbol right now.
Monday, August 17, 2009
In The Tomb we find out about Jack's lack of a social security number, his use of many different last names, and his general wariness of being seen anywhere, by anyone. Jack first became a fixer after his mother was killed by a cinder block being thrown off of a NJ overpass and landing in her lap. When the police can do nothing, college-aged Jack tracks the kid down and fixes the situation. He found his violent, lonely calling, moves to NYC, and never looks back.
Jack has 2 clients in The Tomb. The first is an employee of the Indian consulate who needs help retrieving his grandmother's stolen necklace. The other is for his estranged girlfriend Gia's Aunt. Her sister has gone missing under very suspicious circumstances. Jack is asked to locate her.
As you can imagine, the old lady did not simply wonder off and the necklace is no ordinary necklace. The two stories collide violently as an evil, supernatural being, controlled by Jack's Indian client, is stalking Gia's family, and its goal is to wipe out her daughter's cursed bloodline. Can Jack save the day and stop the bloodshed?
This book would appeal to readers on so many levels. First, it is very fast paced. Like all good adventure writers, Wilson uses date stamping at the start of each new section. The chapters are short, and Wilson stitches the point of view around constantly, so we are always seeing things from a different angle. For example, when we see what the killer is planning, the pace of the book, and your page turning, speeds up as we race to see how Jack is going to handle it.
Wilson is also well known for his great characters: his best friend and weapons dealer, Abe, his girlfriend Gia and her daughter Vicky, and his father are all interesting. But what is so appealing about Wilson's writing is that every character, not just Jack, is fleshed out, detailed, and nuanced. Even the extremely evil villain is given enough motivation and depth for us to see how he got that way. And of course there is Repairman Jack himself!
Other things that readers may enjoy about this book, and the entire series, are the supernatural monsters, detailed NYC and NJ settings, clear cut good vs. evil, and the humor (despite never advertising, Jack still gets messages on his answering machine from people who need their appliances repaired; even as his life is literally hanging in the balance).
With its multiple converging plot lines weaving together for a high drama finish, The Tomb, is hard to put down. Find a comfy seat for the last 100 pages because you will neglect everything in your life to keep reading and find out what happens.
Readalikes: This is an easy one for me as I am in the process of writing the NoveList readalike article for F. Paul Wilson. In terms of the Repairman Jack series, readers may also like these supernatural, investigative series: Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series, Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series, Mike Carey's Felix Castor series, and Preston and Child's Pendergast series.
Lee Child's Jack Reacher series does not have any supernatural elements in it, but both Jacks are strikingly similar in their desire to live off of the grid. Fans of Repairman Jack's eccentricities at hiding his identity will find an even more intriguing loner in Reacher.
For those who liked Wilson's writing and do not have to have the invesitgative element, I would also suggest the writings of Jonathan Maberry, Robert McCammon, and the late Michael Crichton.
You can look to NoveList for my complete F. Paul Wilson Readalike article soon.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Click here to read Isabel Wilkinson's "Back to the 90s" article outlining nine page turners from the 1990s that are still holding strong.
All are readily avaiable at your local public library, right now.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Here is the set up. A late-30s woman walks into the library and asks for an "easy read." More probing from me leads to the revelation that she is going on a 6 hour plane ride and will then spend 10 days on the beach and wants a book that will "captivate her."
Okay, first warning bell goes off in my head. What I find captivating may be be what she finds captivating. I asked more questions and found she wanted new or "hot" books. She likes to stay "ahead of the curve," or at least even with it.
She seemed to want books that were popular with book discussion groups, but not difficult or overly depressing, although sad was okay. I started throwing out titles to see if she had read and liked them. For example, she has read and liked The Lovely Bones, books by Jodi Picoult, and The Secret Life of Bees. So she wants substance, but not plodding pace; she wants a page-turner with some substance behind it. Also, I checked if she minded a mystery or suspense element and she was fine with that too.
I also found out (again by asking) that she likes to have read books that are going to be made into movies. This goes with her wanting to be ahead of the curve issue.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book is provocative, moves steadily, has a bit of suspense, and will be a movie in 2010. My book discussion group read this book and I wrote about it here. As I handed her Never Let Me Go I began by talking up the movie (due 2010) and how she will be ahead of the curve.
Lutz mystery The Spellman Files (which I read here) and played up how popular she has become since this breakout debut. I told her she should read this first and then she could come back and read the new one. She loved being in on a hot new author from her beginnings.
goodie by an always popular author: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a short and captivating coming of age story. I talked it up by focusing on Kingsolver's popularity, my own experience leading a discussion on this title, and this book's timeless charm. She knew of Kingsolver and had never read her, so for her this qualified as "hot."
Notice none of these books are particularly"hot" or new in and of themselves. In fact, they are just some of our popular back list titles. They would not be featured on display at your local book store right now. That is not the point. RA service is about selling the right book to the patron for their particular reading need at that moment.
You need to think of a book or author and then find a way to tell the potential reader the highlights as it pertains to their reading tastes or needs. Depending on who you are talking to, you will sell the book differently. For example, I played down the SF angle on Never Let Me Go, but mentioned it, saying it was dystopian, not aliens, just so she was prepared. I also did not give away the huge twist but did let her know there was a big secret about the school which the characters attend (to find out click here).
Also, it is important to give your patrons at least 3 choices. She took all three (2 pbs and one medium sized hard cover) and can always switch if she is no longer captivated by any. There is nothing worse than being stuck on vacation with nothing to read! (An exaggeration, I know)
Not a single one of these books was on the new shelf, but they were all "hot" titles as I sold them. It is all about perception. She got 3 great books, tailored to her needs, all by stopping by the RA desk before going on vacation. And it didn't cost her a cent.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The small display has a back-to-school theme that has books featuring teaching and school life.
And, the tall display is featuring book titles that make you go hmmmm.... For the record, we made sure it wasn't just the titles that were intriguing; the books themselves are good reads too.
Also, don't forget, we keep every list we have done on the website here. So, if you missed a month, we've still got it on the website.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
This is a novel about Web, a basically good guy who has survived a terrible tragedy and has not been able to pull out of his post-traumatic stress funk. Web has no job and has alienated all but one close friend. In an attempt to help Web get back on his feet, an acquaintance, Po Sin, offers Web a spot on his "clean team," cleaning up crime scenes. We are talking brain matter and body fluids here. Web finds the job satisfying, but gets wrapped up in a smuggling ring and a turf war between cleaners. Serious danger ensues.
Like all Huston novels this is a true hard-boiled suspense story with lots of action, blood and guts, and vulgar language. There are also great characters here. Huston's story may move fast, but he finds time to fully draw out each and every character. Also, this novel has tons of laugh out loud moments. Even in the middle of room splattered with brain matter, there is humor. One good things about Huston is that his style is pretty consistent from book to book.
Again, I do want to stress there is a lot of violence and bad language here, so if you are concerned, open the book to any page and read about 5 pages to see if it is your cup of tea or not. Trust me, at least every 5 pages there is something that will test whether or not this book is okay for you. Personally, I loved it, but I can easily see where this is not the book for every reader.
This is only Huston's second stand alone novel, but with the Joe Pitt Vampyre series ending this fall, and with all of the character development and back story in this novel, I would bet (and hope) that Huston will want to revisit Web again real soon.
Readalikes: There are a lot of authors who write like Huston. First, and most obviously is Chuck Palahniuk, although it should be mentioned that Palahniuk may be more graphic than Huston at times. Jonathan Maberry's brand new series hero Joe Ledger would get along very well with Web. Finally, a more traditional author who will appeal to fans of this novel (and who Huston likes too suggest to his readers) would be James Lee Burke.
For nonfiction, although Chuck Klosterman does not write about crime scene clean-ups, fans of his works will find a similar tone and writing style to Huston's.
If you want to learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder or crime scene clean-up, you could also use the provided links.
Friday, August 7, 2009
However, as this book store in GA reminds us all, the printed book is the original portable reading device.
I will remember this sign the next time someone tells me how great their Kindle is.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The Daily Beast has begun a book club and Adiga's new collection of stories, Between the Assassins, is their first title.
What I find so interesting about this book club is all of the background information they are providing, including other stories and essays by the author, reviews and article about his works, and videos.
This is the first online book club I have seen that has fully embraced all the web has to offer. Most online book clubs are simply glorified chat rooms where readers, and sometimes the author, post about the book itself. Here, The Daily Beast is attempting to discuss the book while providing access to background and supplementary material simultaneously.
Now let's see what happens when they begin the actual discussion. I for one will be watching and hoping for their success.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Don't forget the blog now has quite a few annotations available for you to browse.
I will be teaching this fall. The semester begins September 2, so look for even more titles and, hopefully, more reading maps very soon.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
And not to be left out, Gwyneth Paltrow has posted a list of her friend's favorite summer reads over at her newsletter Goop. I was skeptical, but the list is good
Even though it is August, there still plenty of time to get in a few more good books. Use this link to see all of my summer reading posts and get access to tons of suggestions. Also, use this link to see what I have been reading.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Also, here's an article from this weekend's Cleveland Plain Dealer about the evolution of the vampire from monster to sex symbol. Thanks to Cleveland native and RA Online Blog editor Cindy Orr.