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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Student Annotations: Emotions

After a few weeks hiatus, new student annotations are back up on the blog.  This week they read Horror, Gentle Reads, Romance, and Women's Lives.

So head on over to the class blog to see what they have been reading and writing about.

Thriller Award Nominees

The International Thriller Writers have just announced the finalists for their annual awards.

Any and/or all of these books are a great choice for readers of fast-paced, suspenseful tales, full of twists and turns:

2010 Thriller Awards Nominees

Best Hard Cover Novel:VANISHED by Joseph Finder
LONG LOST by Harlan Coben
FEAR THE WORST by Linwood Barclay
THE NEIGHBOR by Lisa Gardner
THE RENEGADES by T. Jefferson Parker

Best Paperback Original:SHADOW SEASON by Tom Piccirilli
URGE TO KILL by John Lutz
THE COLDEST MILE by Tom Piccirilli
NO MERCY by John Gilstrap

Best First Novel:FRAGMENT by Warren Fahy
DEAD MEN'S DUST by Matt Hilton
DRACULA: THE UN-DEAD by Dacre Stoker
RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL by Jamie Freveletti

A STAB IN THE HEART by Twist Phelan
ICED by Harry Hunsicker
BOLDT'S BROKEN ANGEL by Ridley Pearson

2010 Thriller Awards Winners
To be announced at ThrillerFest V
July 10, 2010. Grand Hyatt, NYC

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Romance Is In the Air

It's as if the Romance Writers of America just knew that the genre was on tap for this week's class. So thanks guys for getting out this year's RITA nominees just in time.

Seriously though, here are the links to the best in Romance courtesy of Early Word.

While we are on the subject of Romance, a former student, Emily, pointed out this new romance blog called Reading the Romance.

There are thousands of Romance resources on the web; however, my favorite romance site is still this one.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bram Stoker Awards

Over the weekend, the Horror Writer's Association announced the winners of the prestigious Bram Stoker award. Click here to see my post of the nominees.

Following is the official press release from the HWA and congratulations to all the winners and nominees:

Horror Writers Association celebrates 2009 Stoker winners

At long last, the anticipation is over. The Horror Writers Association has announced the winners of the 2009 Bram Stoker Awards at its annual Stoker Banquet held tonight as part of the World Horror Convention in Brighton, UK.

Eight new bronze haunted-house statuettes were handed over to the writers responsible for creating superior works of horror last year. This year’s winners are:

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
AUDREY’S DOOR by Sarah Langan (Harper)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
DAMNABLE by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
THE LUCID DREAMING by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
“In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss (POSTSCRIPTS #18)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
HE IS LEGEND edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION
A TASTE OF TENDERLOIN by Gene O’Neill (Apex Book Company)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION
WRITERS WORKSHOP OF HORROR by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)

Superior Achievement in POETRY
CHIMERIC MACHINES by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)

Works can be recommended by any member of the HWA. Members with Active status then vote works onto a preliminary ballot. From there the field is narrowed to the final ballot and Active members choose the winners from that. The award is named for Bram Stoker, best known as the author of Dracula. The trophy, which resembles a miniature haunted house, was designed by author Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk.

HWA also presented its annual Lifetime Achievement Awards and its Specialty Press Award. Brian Lumley was on hand to accept his Lifetime Achievement Award, while fellow winner William F. Nolan offered a video acceptance. The Specialty Press Award went to Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker of Tartarus Press.

The Silver Hammer Award, for outstanding service to HWA, was voted by the organization’s board of trustees to Kathryn Ptacek. The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award was given to Vince A. Liaguno.

Lisa Morton, who organized this year’s presentation in conjunction with the World Horror Convention, commented on the historic nature of the 2010 event: “This was the first time we’ve presented the Stoker Awards outside of the North American continent, and I hope it serves to continue to expand HWA’s presence and membership outside of the U.S. and Canada. We’re committed to serving the entire world of horror.”

For more information, visit http://www.horror.org


More information on the Horror Writers Association is at http://www.horror.org More information on this year’s Stoker Award nominees (including photos) is available at http://www.lisamorton.com/hwa/sto2010/stokers10.htm

Friday, March 26, 2010

Publisher's Weely's Annual Bestseller Report

One of my favorite articles of the year is PW's annual report on the bestselling books of the previous year. Not only do they list the titles that moved the most copies, they break down the trends in fiction/nonfiction, hardcover/paperbacks, and publishers. The lists are fun, but it is the analysis that is enlightening.

Here is the article. I have my students read and discuss this article each semester. If you are interested in what books people are reading (and if you are a RA librarian you should be), read this article.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Touney Time!

Now that Kansas blew out my bracket in the NCAA BB Tourney, and I have no hope to repeat as champ of my ESPN group, I thought I would turn your attention to my favorite book themed tournament.

Each year, for the last six years, The Morning News has run their own Tournament of Books pitting the best of the previous year against each other. Use this link to follow all of the action. And just like the bb tourney, this one is getting down to the last few books.

Also, for the record, The Morning News is worth reading regularly.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stephen King's Comics Debut

The book publishing world is excited (as am I) about King's first comic.  His stories have been made into graphic novels before, but this is the first time he has written a direct to comics story.

There is a great interview with King on The Book Beast here.

Here is a quote describing the basic premise from the intro to that interview:

Tomorrow, Stephen King and Scott Snyder will turn loose American Vampire, a new DC Comics series about a Wild West outlaw who’s a sociopath even before he gets vamped. This fresh, rough-and-tumble breed of vampire will rip out throats and hearts, but they most assuredly won’t sparkle—sorry Twilight fans.
I have paired this post with my report yesterday on Joe Hill's new book. Either is a great reading option for fans of some good old fashioned story telling (if you don't mind some chills and a bit of blood).  But my question is:  Is Stephen King's DNA taking over the world? And if so, why does it not feel like such a bad thing?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I'm Reading: Horns

Recently I finished the most recent Joe Hill book, Horns. Now that he is a bestselling author and can (sorta) come out of his father's shadow (Stephen King), Hill is more willing to talk about himself in interviews.  Here is a good one from Time.

Now that I am done, I definitely think Horns is a horror book, but it is a slightly new breed, as I will explain in a bit, and I am wondering if it will start a trend.  Okay, wait-- I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the plot.

Horns begins with our hero, Ig, waking up, hung over, with horns literally growing out of his head. It is about a year after his girlfriend was raped and murdered, a crime for which he was blamed, but never prosecuted. Turns out these horns have given Ig devilish powers.  Basically every single person he comes into contact with cannot help but tell him all of their deepest secrets. And, when he touches them, he can see all the bad things they have done in their pasts.

You can imagine this makes for some interesting storytelling. Ig learns that just about everyone he knows believes he is guilty. Except, that he also learns who really killed his girlfriend. Here is where the story strays. We get lots of flashbacks to Ig's childhood, all which builds up details which explains the murder. We also start to get a bit of the killers point of view.

When we get back to present day Ig, he is living in the woods, calling together minions of snakes, and waiting to do battle with his girlfriend's killer. There is also an interlude of time warping which was interesting, but a bit forced. The ending is nonstop action and like most horror books, the story is resolved happily but the supernatural evil is not gone for good.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining read. The flashbacks were a bit slow for me, but compelling enough that I kept going. In the end, I had a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.

Is this book a supernatural thriller or horror? I have thought about this a lot. I am going to go with horror. Why? Because even though Ig is the protagonist of the story, he is still a very scary dude. You are rooting for him, but at a distance.You would not want to meet him on any street, day or night. He defeats his very evil, totally human enemy, but he is still the devil; he can still breathe fire; and he is only building in strength. The entire book is unsettling and chilling. You never really have a chance to breathe easy while reading it. Which is not a bad thing.

So the next question I have is, will Horns change the way horror novels are written? Will the hero begin to be someone/thing that we are as drawn to as we are afraid of? Generally, in a horror novel, the supernatural evil being is the obvious bad guy that our human protagonists fight against. What Hill has done, in terms of horror fiction, is very new. We will have to wait to see if it changes the genre at all though.

Other appeals: There are many detailed and interesting secondary characters here. This is pure small town horror. There is very little sex or violence, for the genre. You do get flashbacks and multiple points of view (hero and villain). The pace is swift and compelling in the present day story line, but a bit slower in the flashbacks. It is as if the present day moves at thriller pace, while the flashbacks move at literary fiction pace. Both are appropriate to their part of the story, but some readers may not like the shift in pacing.

The language is conversational and unembellished. There are funny inside jokes that refer to current popular culture, Hill's last novel, and his father's hatred of cell phones which fans will enjoy. The tone is bleak; bad things keep happening to Ig, and everyone around him holds on to very bad secrets. You might ask if anyone in your life is truly good after finishing this book. Turning into the devil isn't such a bad idea in this town. Finally, the ending is resolved but open.

Three Word to Decribe This Book: devil, storytelling-horror, character-centered

Readalikes: First of all, if you haven't read Hill's debut Heart-Shaped Box or his even better (in my opinion) collection of stories, 20th Century Ghosts, run out to the library right now and get them.

Hill's writing is reminiscent of his father's early work. I would suggest The Shining specifically.  I also think Hill's stories and novels are very similar to the award-winning Pine Deep horror trilogy by Jonathan Maberry. I wrote about the first title, Ghost Road Blues, at the end of this post.

Peter Straub (try Ghost Story) and Bentley Little (try The Mailman)  are also good choices for story-telling horror fans. These authors and those titles specifically have a wide appeal.

For writers who are a little less horrific, I would suggest Dan Simmons and Charlie Huston. Both have the dark humor, irony, and not so nice protagonists that mark Hill's work. Both are also on the edge of horror without completely crossing over the line into the darkness.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Right Book Wrong Time?

When I go out to train librarians in how to provide the best RA service, one of the things I stressed repeatedly is that we not only ask the patron about a book they enjoyed and why, but also that we continue the conversation by asking, "Are you in the mood for that, or something different?"

Then, a few days ago I saw this discussion on io9, a science fiction blog, about books you hated and then read later and loved.

As you can see from the comments here, this is a big appeal issue. We librarians need to make sure people are the the correct mood for the book we are giving them.

Here is an example from my own life. I first read Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders at the wrong time. This is a historical novel about a real town in 1600s England. They had an outbreak of the plague and chose to seal themselves off from the rest of the world so as not to spread it. At the beginning of the book the protagonist makes it clear that she survived but that her 3 year-old and 3 month-old did not. We then go back to the beginning to see how everyone (including her children) died. There is much more depth to this wonderful novel, but this is all you need to know for my personal story.

Normally this death and dying would be fine with me, except, at the exact moment I was reading this book, I was the mother of a 3 year-old and a 3 month old.  Trust me, this was not good. I was constantly thinking about them getting the plague, checking them for signs of sickness, and generally being freaked out. This is not how I usually get with a book. I read plenty of horror without getting nightmares, but somehow, this book hit too close to home. It was not a pleasant experience.

Thankfully, I was forced to reread Year of Wonders for a book club a few years later, and loved it. I have since read her next 2 books and loved them too. This was clearly a case of the right book at the wrong time. Thank goodness I revisited it or I never would have known.

Has this happened to you? Let me know about your experiences by commenting here or, if it is a SF book specifically, over at the Library Thing discussion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

BPL Book Discussion: The Zookeeper's Wife

This month the BPL book discussion group met to discuss the unique WWII nonfiction title, The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. I actually began the discussion with a comment from a participant in Kathy's evening group back when they discussed it in January. She said, "It is important to read stories about heroes who aren't warriors." I think this one sentence sums up the entire book and its appeal.

We have read a lot of titles with a WWII frame in our group, but that did not diminish the appeal of this book; all but 2 people absolutely loved the book and "couldn't put it down." This is a book about people, animals, nature, and war.

Jan and Antoninia Zabinski were the zookeeper and his wife in Warsaw when the Germans invaded. Over the years that Warsaw was occupied, working with the Polish resistance, they were able to shelter and save over 300 Jews from certain death by hiding them in the zoo. Naturalist Ackerman, has scoured Antoninia journals, interviewed her son, and scoured the surviving records of the Polish resistance in order to recreate the fascinating, forgotten, true-life story of the zookeeper's wife and the true nature of the obsessive evil that was Nazism.

Here are some of the major issues we discussed:
--Even though there were many details about the animals in their lives, you did not have to be a people person to appreciate all of the detail.  We were especially riveted by Ackerman's descriptions of the Nazi's obsession with back breeding the wild Polish horses to their "pure" state.
--We would have liked a map of the zoo grounds. The Jews and resistance workers were hidden fairly out in the open, in a pheasant house and in their home on the grounds. Many were disguised as gentile workers, all while the Germans were also on the zoo grounds. How lcose were the Germans to the hidden people. Also, where was the Ghetto in relation to the zoo? We had many location questions that a map would have answered.
--We spent a good deal of time talking about the Polish resistance. Even living in the Chicago area, home to the most Poles outside of Poland, we were all always taught that the Poles gave up when the German invaded. Not so, we have now learned. They fought each and every day their were occupied. --We all now have a heightened appreciation for the Poles and their intricate and organized resistance.
In terms of the language, Ackerman's writing is beautiful. Multiple people discussed how it drew them in. We appreciated her choice to spend time on the day-to-day details of life living under the Nazi's (who by the way, only hated Jews more than Poles), and the daily life and death struggle of ordinary people.
--But especially, we loved Antoninia. One participant called her "the animal whisperer." Her courage and ability to read people and animals in a way that literally saved all of their lives many times. We loved her passion and eccentricity. We also found her and Jan extraordinary since they did not see themselves as heroic; they just felt they were doing their part for the underground machine to save Poland.
--We discussed the contradictions here. Antoninia and Jan's story is one of survival and the best of what a humans can become; juxtaposed with the outright evil of the Nazi's.
--Finally we talked about what we would have done in their situation. This is a heartbreaking story of good people who put others first. If they had been found out, everyone would have been killed immediately. We all hoped we would have been like A and J and actively save others, but until it happens, you don't know what you would do.

    We ended by talking about what a great example this book is of the fact that reading exposes you to so much more of the world.

    Three Words That Describe This Book: Inspirational, WWII, Animals

    Readalikes: Some readalikes that came up as we were discussing this book were Leon Uris' Exodus, Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky and the nonfiction of Temple Grandin.

    For those who want more info about the Polish underground, try Fighting Warsaw. I would also suggest Faithful Elephants, a memoir by a Japanese zookeeper during WWII.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Student Annotations: Genres of the Intellect

    As I mentioned yesterday, tonight's class is about the Genres of the Intellect: Mystery, SF, Psychological Suspense and Literary Fiction.

    After midterms and a week of spring break, the student's are back posting annotations on the Word Press Blog. So click on over to see what they have to say about the books they have been reading.

    There are quite a few, and some really great titles too. Enjoy.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day


    I am not Irish, but I do like Irish themed literature, specifically Roddy Doyle, Pete Hamill, and Ian Sansom's Bookmobile Mysteries, so I didn't want to let the day pass without acknowledging it at all (that is besides dressing the kids in green).

    Here is a link from Lit Lists to get you started: "Five Best Books on Ireland."

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Favorite Intellect Resources

    Tomorrow Joyce and I will be sharing our favorite tips, tricks and resources for the genres of the intellect: mystery, science fiction, psychological suspense, and literary fiction. I thought this would be a good time to pass on my favorite go to resources for each genre.

    So I am going on record here today. If I had to pick only one resource for each of these genres, this is what I would use and why.

    Mystery: This is the easiest one. When I have a mystery questions the first place I go is Stop You're Killing Me. I cannot say enough about how helpful and useful this site is, so I will let them tell you...
    Stop, You’re Killing Me! is a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books. We list over 3,300 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 37,000 titles), both series (3,700+) and non-series. Use the alphabetical author and character links above or the special indexes in the left column. And it’s perfectly fine with us if you print our pages for your private use, especially for a trip to your local library or bookstore.
    Psychological Suspense: From the easiest (Mystery) to the most difficult now. Psychological suspense is not a recognized genre, but rather, these books are part thriller, part horror, and part mystery. Psychological Suspense is very popular with a wide range of readers, but it can be hard to find on the shelf. I know because the mini-genre study I did on the BPL's psychological suspense holdings is constantly being recopied.  We don't have that document up on the website yet, but until then, you can use this psychological suspense page from the always trustworthy Hennepin County Library.

    Science Fiction: If you have any SF question, stop and immediately go to Locus Magazine Online, the online version of the leading news and review magazine of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror publishing fields. I use Locus Online as a portal to every conceivable SF link. It has never let me down.

    Literary Fiction: Here you go right to The New York Times Books Section to find links to the notable books lists, their blog Paper Cuts, and of course tons of reviews of literary fiction titles.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Vacation Reads

    Spring Break is coming up for a lot of people and I am being inundated with questions from friends, family and patrons about what books they should take on their vacations. Then I figured there are a lot more of you out there with the same questions, so I will share my advice.

    Vacations are always very tricky. When you begin a new book at home, if you are not enjoying it, you can simply close it and pick up another. However, with vacation, if you only bring one book and you don't like it, you are stuck. You have nothing to read. There is nothing that a reader fears more than being stuck without a book. I have heard of vacations ruined by just this problem, no joke.

    So, then you think, I will bring a few books with me. But how much room can you really justify taking up in your suitcase with back up books?

    My advice, before you go gather at least 7 books that you might want to read on vacation. To assemble your potential vacation  reads pile, look online at reviews and go to the library and talk to the staff about what you like to read to see what they suggest. Talk to friends, browse the library shelves, etc...Your goal is to gather a wide range of books that may interest you.

    Now, take them home, sit down somewhere quiet and read the first chapter of each book.  Which ones grabbed your attention the most. Also consider how they feel in your hand as you hold them. Don't limit your self to a paperback; hardcovers are not that much bigger. Try to narrow it down to three. I always try to have three myself, that way I can switch back and forth if one is starting to drag a bit.

    Know you are not alone. For a detailed description of how I helped an actual patron with just this vacation reading quandary, click here.  Also, if you want some more suggetions use this link or this link to get to more detailed reports on books I have read over the last three years. My students have also been posting about what they have read on their class blog, here. Finally, see what books the staff at the BPL is suggesting at the Browsers' Corner, including our growing repository of "Suggested Reading Lists."

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    RA Resources for All: Gnooks

    In the past I have mentioned one of my favorite RA resources for when I am completely stumped: Gnooks.  You can click here to see the other posts where I have talked about this unique resource.  But for those of you who cannot tear your self away from this current post, here is a basic Gnooks primer.

    Basically, Gnooks is a computer generated list of author readalikes. People input authors they like and don't like and the gnod engine uses its trademarked algorithm to create a visually stunning display of similar authors.

    When you type in "Stephen King," you get this. Each of the authors you see floating near King's name can also be clicked on. That author is then made the center of his or her own map. The visual representation of how author's works may be near one and other is very useful to patrons; however, since these maps are completely computer generated, I do not like to trust them as my only resource when assisting a reader.

    They do however help you the librarian, especially if you have no idea who an author is. It literally places him or her on a map where you or your patron may see other familiar authors. It is also a good resource to use to check your other findings against.

    So why, you may ask am I revisiting Gnooks in today's post? Well, I am also grading student midterms right now, and one, Bethany wrote this about Gnooks in her paper:
    I like to think of Gnooks as a compass. It's won't tell you how to get home, but it'll keep you from getting lost.
    I think that perfectly describes how Gnooks can help you. Go type in your favorite authors right now. If you are not happy with what you find, you can change the results by entering the authors you like and don't like. The more people who participate and input their preferences, the more useful Gnooks gets.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Keeping the Shelves In Order

    Every other week I volunteer at my daughter's elementary school library. Although I am often consulted on larger issues pertaining to the library's collection and do provide quite a bit of RA to the students, I am mostly there to help shelve the books.

    Also, this week at the BPL, our page injured herself and I spent a large part of my shift shelving books.

    Now, many librarians would say that using a professional librarian to shelve books over other more "worthy" duties is a poor use of the librarian's skills and expertise. I am here to tell you today that those people are flat out wrong.
    First and foremost, neat, clean, and ordered book shelves are THE most important service you can provide for you patrons. Think about it, if a patron comes in looking for a book, checks the catalog, and goes to the exact place where the book is supposed to be and cannot find it, how do you think they are going to feel about the service you are providing?

    Many librarians think it is beneath them to keep the shelves in order. I would argue that as the professionals, we should be responsible for keeping them in order. If that means getting in there and shelf reading (which means you go through a section, book by book, to make sure they are in the correct order) or literally shelving the books, so be it. We need to take responsibility for our collections from the selection of materials to their home on the shelves.

    This does not mean we should fire all of our pages and start adding daily shelving to our already busy schedules, but it does mean we should make sure all of our staff spend at least a couple of hours a week shelf reading or shelving. I have empty shelves of books and wiped them down with paper towels and cleaner many times. More memorably, I did a survey of the entire SF and Fantasy section, including weeding, shelf reading, and cleaning the shelves while 8.5 months pregnant. I can tell you I am a better librarian for it; possessing a more intimate knowledge of our collection and its strengths and weakness.

    Too many librarians stay behind their desks all of the time. They do not get out, into the stacks to see what the patrons see. By just getting up and  roaming the stacks you will find people confused by signage (now you know to fix that signage), lost patrons looking for help (a great opportunity to start the RA interview), and dusty, messy, or over stuffed shelves (these need immediate attention.)

    Once when I was helping out with the shelving, I came upon an area so tight that it needed immediate weeding and a huge shift. How long had this been going on? How many patrons were unable to remove a book they wanted and were too embarrassed to ask for help? I don't know, but myself and my then department head Briana spent a few days fixing that section. This led to a collection wide inventory, weeding, and shifting project which is still going on and has made our collection much neater and more relevant to our patrons' needs.

    I haven't even begun to mention all you can learn yourself by roaming the shelves. When shelving I have come upon lost treasures: books that I had meant to read years before, books with interesting covers or titles that demand a second look, or classics in need of replacements. In each of these instances I have brought the books back to my desk and spent some time with them. Some times I will check them out or add them to my to-read list, but more often than not, I end up passing them on to a patron to enjoy. A book they would have never found if I hadn't of gotten up and moved myself into the stacks.

    Now get off your butt and get into the stacks! Shelve some books, shelf read a few stacks, or clean some shelves. If I could do it 8.5 months pregnant, what's stopping you? Any of these duties will improve your skills as a librarian and, more importantly, they will greatly improve you patrons' library experience. And, isn't that why we work in public libraries in the first place?

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    New Reading Maps Posted

    Last week our students completed their midterm projects and five of them turned in reading maps. They are:
    We now have 23 examples of student reading maps for any librarian or reader to access! Please use them to help your patrons, or to inspire yourself to create on of your own.

    The permanent reading map archive with links to articles, library examples, and all student examples is always located here. I usually cross post anything about reading map, but you can also click here to access everything about reading maps that has appeared on RA for All.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    BPL Displays: March 2010

    Two new displays are up in RA at the Berwyn Public Library for March.

    First you can help us celebrate Women's History Month with a display of women who are "as tough as nails."

    And, here is our display of medical fiction: books featuring doctors, nurses, and illness.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Literary Mashups with Horror

    Now you know I love a good horror story, but these mixing of horror elements with classic novels may be getting a bit out of hand. Check out this post from Early Word to see a list of just a few of the new horror/literary mashups.

    Although, for the record, Seth Grahame-Smith, you ignore this and keep on writing. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is awesome!

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Podcast Link: Graphic Novels in Libraries

    In the past I have mentioned the wonderful site, No Flying, No Tights. This website is done by a librarian, for librarians and is all about graphic novels. There are three portals here, the main No Flying No tights site for teens, The Lair for older teens and adults, and Sidekicks for children.

    Each site has plenty of reviews, links, and articles about helping patrons of all ages to find graphic novels.

    Recently, the publisher of No Flying, No Tights, Robin Brenner was a guest on Longshots, the library related podcast by Sarah Long, Director of the North Suburban Library system. Use this link to listen to Robin talk about graphic novels, blogging, and where she got the name for the site.  I found this interview very interesting and helpful.

    On a side note, you can also hop on over to this podcast when I was a guest on Longshots back in 2007.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Book Trailers

    Last night during the student midterm presentations I realized that not everyone is as familiar with the new book trailer phenomenon as I am, so I thought I would spend a few minutes on them today.

    Basically, a book trailer is like a movie trailer only for a book. Publishers and authors make these to generate interest about everything from classics to new books by big name authors, to debut novels. Some are artistically interesting and others, funny. They range from dramatic reenactments to simply informational. However, they are always very useful as a tool for helping your patrons to find their next good read.

    Why should you care about watching a video about a book you might read? Good question. These videos are a quick way for the publisher or author to convey the style and tone of the book as well as giving you enough plot details to pique your interest (or not) as a reader.

    For the librarian, book trailers let you know which books are worth your attention. If the publishers have put in the energy (and dollars) to create a trailer, it is probably a book worth knowing about. Besides, it is much faster to watch a 3 minute trailer than to read an entire book. At least after watching the trailer you know a bit more about the book; possibly enough to now share that book with your patrons.

    Okay, so the next question is, how do I find book trailers? There are a few ways to stay up on them. First, blogs like Likely Stories from Booklist highlights book trailers every Thursday. Good old Wikipedia, has some links too. You could also just run a search for "book trailer" on You Tube to see the newest trailers right away.

    However, your best bet is to subscribe to the publishers' channels on You Tube. The publishers even subscribe to each other. You can find the links to their You Tube channel on their webpages or by clicking on their name as the poster of a trailer on You Tube. Here are some to get you started:

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    What I'm Reading: American Buffalo and The Big Burn

    Last month I listened to two audio books with similar subject headings, but very different styles, tones, and feel. Both American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella and The Big Burn: Teddy Rooevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan are about the history of the American West. Both have a focus on the natural beauty of the West. And both have a tone that is nostalgic for a by gone era while still being critical of the mistakes we, as Americans, have made in the past in regards to how we treated the preservation of our natural landscape.

    Finally, both utilize tricks from fiction to make their stories more compelling. Like a suspense novel, each begins with a scene that puts us at the climax of the book, and then backs up to go back to the beginning. You are compelled to keep reading to get back to, in Rinella's case, the moment when he has killed his Buffalo, and in Egan's case, the evacuation of the women and children from a frontier town threatened by a huge forest fire.

    I want to start with American Buffalo because it serves as a great example of appeal vs. subject heading. On the surface, American Buffalo is about hunting for Buffalo. Personally, I am not a fan of hunting or guns, and quite honestly, although buffalo interest me, but I don't really think about them unless I am at the zoo or eating a yummy buffalo burger here or here.

    However, when the book first came out I heard Rinella interviewed on NPR. Talking about why he wrote the book, his intense love and obsession with the buffalo, and how this book was the culmination of a quest for personal discovery, made me put the book on my to read list immediately.

    While the subject headings for this book are things like "Hunting" and "Sports Literature," the appeal is in the way these things are described. Rinella recounts the history of buffalo in America, American expansion, natural history, and his own personal story about getting a permit to trek into the Alaskan wild and kill is own buffalo.  This was much more a narrative history of buffalo and a personal story of self discovery all rolled into one, rather than a pro-hunting diatribe.

    My only problem with the book came from its informal structure as a personal narrative.  At times, I felt like my 5 year-old son wrote the book, as Rinella goes into stretches where he is spitting out every fact he knows about Buffalo for minutes at a time before returning to the narrative.

    On the more formal side of nonfiction about conservation and American expansion into the West, is Pulitizer Prize winner Timothy Egan's The Big Burn. Egan is an accomplished historian. All of his books offer a nice balance of well researched history, charcater development and a compelling storyline. Unlike Rinella's personal, diary like tone, Egan's works are professional but compelling narrative histories. Egan the man in not part of the story himself, rather, he lets the adventure, intrigue, danger, and people of history speak for themselves. I think I could read any book he writes, no matter the subject because, again, like Rinella, it is how he writes, not the subject, that makes his books appealing to me.

    Specifically, The Big Burn is about the friendship between Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt and their fight to start a government sponsored conservation movement in the United States

    In an interview on Amazon.com Egan said of these two men:
    I was hugely impressed with Roosevelt and his chief forester, a very strange and original American now nearly lost to our history named Gifford Pinchot. These were two easterners, born into wealth, who crusaded a century ago for the Progressive Era idea that a democracy and public land were inextricably linked. They always talked about land belonging to “the little guy.” It was a radical idea then, at a time when the gulf between the rich and poor was never greater. Roosevelt and Pinchot were both traitors to their class, in that sense.
    Of course, the seminal moment in the history of the Forest Service is the giant forest fire ta the center of this book described in amazing detail by Egan. He intersperses the action based storyline of the fire with the history of the time, place and people involved. I cannot say enough about how well Egan captures the events and people. I was literally riveted by this story, not to mention the interesting and eccentric people involved.

    Since I listened to both of these, I would like to make a few comments on the audio.  First, Rinella's book incorporates the endnotes into the audio, while to read the footnotes in Egan's work, you would need to get a hard copy of the work. The Big Burn also has great photos which I went and looked at after I listened to the audio. You can see many of them now right here. Although, Egan does such a great job describing the fire and its effects that I could literally visualize the event as I listened to the book.

    Three Words That Describe American Buffalo: Buffalo, Personal Quest, Obsession
    Three Words That Describe The Big Burn: Fire, Forgotten History, Preservation

    American Buffalo is very similar to Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, except in Rinella's book we have a happy ending. Also, Rinella's personal, almost diary like writing style focusing on the nature that the average American never experiences, was very reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau.

    Rinella also spends a bit of time talking about the migration of the first people to North America. Those who found this part of the story appealing should look at Katherine and Michael Gear's series, The First North Americans.

    And for those who just love reading about buffalo, use this link.

    Over to The Big Burn, Egan's criticism of the Forest Service is muted. He makes apologies for the well meaning people who got usurped by corrupt politicians.  For a more no holds barred approach to the beginnings of the National Forest Service watch Ken Burns' National Parks documentary or read the companion book.

    Some readers may want to read more about the times and people in Egan's book. You can click here for books about Teddy Roosevelt, the National Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, or the early 20th Century Progressives.

    Readers of either book who want some fiction which evokes the beauty of the Western landscape should try Leif Enger or Ivan Doig.

    Navada Barr has an excellent mystery series featuring her amateur detective/National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. Each book is set in a different National Park and any would appeal to fans of either of these books.

    Alaska and the Western US are also popular settings for mysteries. Click here for some suggestions based on location. Specifically, I would suggest C.J. Box, Dana Stabenow, Sue Henry, or the late Tony Hillerman as good examples.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Looking for Your Next Good Read with Nancy Pearl's Help

    The most well known librarian in the country is Nancy Pearl. I love that a friendly, helpful, and outgoing librarian is out in front representing us all. Maybe it is because I am this kind of librarian, but Pearl is out there on the web and the radio reminding people that finding your next great read is fun.

    Those of you who have never listened to Pearl's regular appearances on NPR, are missing out on some great book suggestions. And, if you are a librarian, you should be listening to hear great examples of book talking. Pearl really gets to the heart of the appeal of the books she discusses; she talks about why readers enjoy them.  Click here for the links to her most recent reports.

    For about 10 months now, Pearl has been posting on her blog. I have been following it for awhile and I really feel like she is hitting her stride in this medium. I am still waiting for her to provide better access to tags and links from the blog's main page. Right now, it is more a blog to read and follow in real time and less of a resource. But it is worth reading even if the archiving is only basic.

    Anyway, click on over, you will learn quite a bit about how to find your next good read.