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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RA Link Roundup and Book Lovers Club Reminder

I spent the morning at the kids' school library processing books and doing readers' advisory for elementary school children.  Let me tell you, RA training on 7 year olds will get you ready for anything and adult could ever throw at you.  But I digress...

Tonight is the last Tuesday of an odd numbered month.  Do you know what that means?  It's Book Lovers Club tonight from 7-8:30 at Olive or Twist in Berwyn.  Kathy and I will be there.  If you want to join us click here.  For those of you unable to join us, we do have the notes from all previous meetings.  We are working on getting them up on the Browsers Corner website.  Currently, we only mail them to those on the mailing list.  I will let you know when they are ready.

Working on posting those lists made me think about the fact that I haven't done a links round up in awhile.  So here we go:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Discussion: Books on Repeat

Thursday is Groundhog Day, which always makes me think about the movie of the same name in which Bill Murray is forced to live a day over and over until he gets it right.

It got me thinking about re-reading books.  Back in August of 2010, I asked a Monday Discussion question about which books you like to re-read.  There I mentioned how I do often re-read Fahrenheit 451, but overall I am not a re-reader.  Click through to see what I and others had to say.

I would love discuss our  re-reading habits some more, but in the spirit of Groundhog Day, the movie, I also thought we could talk about books we re-tried and gave another chance.  For me, last year I read 2 books that I had begun a few years before and couldn't get through, but then tried again, and enjoyed them.  They were Brookland and Ahab's Wife (the links lead to my detailed reviews).

So for today's Monday Discussion, share your favorite books to re-read or a book you gave another chance to and subsequently found out you did enjoy it.

For past Monday Discussions, click here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taft 2012!

On Tuesday I was ordering new books for the BPL's adult fiction collection when I read a review of a new offering from Quirk Books, the fine people who brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  The book is called Taft 2012!  and was written by Jason Heller.  Here is the description from the publisher:
He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his peaceful, progressive practicality. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.
There’s just one problem. He is William Howard Taft . . . and he was already president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?
A most extraordinary satire, Jason Heller’s debut novel follows the strange new life of a presidential Rip Van Winkle: a man who never even wanted the White House in the first place, yet finds himself hurtling toward it once more—this time, through the media-fueled madness of 21st-century America.
How brilliant of Heller and Quirk to release this book now.  I am already getting sick of the Presidential race and we still have 9 months to go!  This book is going to have legs.  I can see it going out constantly for the next year.

Add to the mix, this awesome book trailer (embedded below) which is made to look like an ad campaign for Taft.  Political ad campaigns are so awful but also so ubiquitous that even my 7 and 9 year old kids got the joke of this book trailer.  Thanks to Likely Stories for the link.

Watch for yourself and I dare you not to laugh.

For more book related video fun from me today, click here.

And as we get closer to the actual election this fall, we here at the BPL RA desk have a fun display planned.  Without giving it away, I can tell you that if you like the humor in this book and trailer, you will love our take on the election too.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What I'm Reading: Destiny of the Republic

Last week, I finished one of 2011's best picks for Nonfiction, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  Previously, my book group read Millard's other critically acclaimed book, River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey.  You can use the link to read all about that one and to see readalikes.

This book is a detailed recounting of James A. Garfield's unexpected rise to the Presidency and the story of his assassin, Charles Guiteau.  I will not give away the interesting details of how these two men's stories were set on a trajectory towards a violent collision because allowing Millard to reveal them to me as I read was one of the joys of the book.  There were times I literally gasped with shock at this book. Personally, I love it when history can still shock me.

She also recounts a brief biography of Alexander Graham Bell because Bell created a metal detector specifically to try to find the bullet lodged in Garfield.  It goes into some detail about his background and personal life, specifically his family and his great frustration with all the grief the invention of the telephone brought him.

But it is the information on the radical differences of opinions in medical science at this time where this book shines.  Millard slowly introduces the vehement fight between doctors at the time with the new idea of trying to keep things sterile led by Dr. Lister against the old way of the grubbier the better.  Literally she describes doctors wearing dirty coats into surgery like a badge of honor; wiping instruments on their bloodied shirts from one surgery to the next, without washing a thing!

The crazy thing is, Lister was seen as wrong for wanting to keep things sterile.  Millard uses the case of Garfield to show how the world was soon going to fall in line with Lister.  Garfield's doctors, led by Dr. Bliss, are what killed him, not the bullet.  In fact, as Millard tells us, the shot Garfield sustained then, would barely keep him in the hospital 24 hours today.  To see how he suffered all summer waiting to die of an infection is quite horrific, but unfortunately 100% accurate.

While I enjoyed the medical parts, this book works because of Millard's obvious affection for Garfield.  In a letter posted on Amazon here, Millard wrote,  "This book is my attempt to step back in time, to understand these men and this moment in history, and to tell a story that should never have been forgotten."  Her compassion and personal interest in this forgotten history comes through in her prose. She tells a specific story about particular men, but it is also our American story.

Sadly, Garfield knew he would be forgotten.  I think that is what I take away most from this book.  For the first time, I am thinking about how different America would have been if Garfield had lived, instead of viewing him as a footnote in our history.  He was staunchly for the equal rights of blacks at a time when that was an uncommon political stance. Could he have helped to bring about Civil Rights sooner?  If I go by Millard's overall argument, probably not.  It was in how his death united the country that Garfield made the biggest strides of any post-Civil War President to bring the country back together.

I was so mad at Guiteau by the end of the book.  Millard made me go from never thinking about Garfield to being in awe of his intelligence, fairness, and statesmanship to then mourning him, all in 350 pages.  That is a good book.

The combination of Millard's engaging voice, her ability to cram in lots of details without overwhelming the reader, and her research which allowed her to link independent events of the era and show how they all played out through Garfield's shooting, long suffering, and eventual death, is a joy to watch unfold.  This book may be about Garfield's assassination on the surface, but at its heart it is a story about an adolescent America going through some real growing pains, trying to move into adulthood.

Any readers who like smart, interesting, and entertaining narrative nonfiction should read this book.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  engaging, compelling, richly detailed

Readalikes:  Although the tone is completely different, I kept thinking of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. In this book, Vowell uses her trademark geeky humor to delve further into the ways in which the assassination of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley were played out in a cultural context.  In the process of reading Vowell's book I learned quite a bit about Guiteau, and I knew the weirdness of Robert Todd Lincoln's presence at the assassination (and McKinley's later), but Vowell's book did not have any of the details about Lister, Bell and/or Bliss that I found so interesting.  Together these books make a nice pair.

A search on NoveList revealed a few good nonfiction readalikes: Ira Rutkow's James A. Garfield (a biography), Kenneth Ackerman's Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield (as much about the era as the assassination), and Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz (similar writing style; about the post-Civil War era).

For those interested in the subsequent McKinley assassination (which finally got the President some armed guards wherever he went), Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century is widely considered to best the best narrative nonfiction on the topic.

As an author, Millard's richly detailed, yet not bogged down style, her engaging voice, and compelling plotting remind me of a few other authors:
If you have a reader who liked Destiny of the Republic but wants a fiction suggestion, I would try The March by E.L. Doctorow for its American History, multiple points of view, engaging voice and compelling plot.  Just like Destiny of the Republic, we know what is going to happen but we are still compelled to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shame on You: Chicago Tribune Making Books Coverage Cost More

I am not happy about this both as a librarian in the Chicago area and as a personal subscriber to the paper.  

Please excuse me for a moment while I talk to the people who run the Chicago Tribune.

Tribune people, I am under 40 and get home delivery of your paper. We do exist. Well, maybe not for much longer now.  What are you thinking here.  For the record, my New York Times home delivery comes at a lower rate (education rate) and has FREE books coverage.  Oh and also better coverage of Chicago news in their twice weekly Chicago News Cooperative coverage than you have every day.  So, I really don't think you are in much of a position to ask me for $99 more a year.  And to add insult to injury, you are going to take $99 out of my library budget now because we need to have this new section for our patrons.  Thanks.

Okay, I am back.  Here is the link to this news as I found it first on The Millions (whose last sentence commentary is spot on; I vote for marginalized):
The Chicago Tribune is rolling out a new premium books section for $99 a year. The Printers Rowoffering (named for a Chicago neighborhood) “will feature 24 pages of book reviews, author interviews and Chicago-focused literary news, along with a weekly bonus book of short fiction.” You can either feel validated (special HBO-style “premium” section for readers!) or marginalized (so few people care about this that you have to pay extra if you want it.)

Best Picture Books

I happen to be a big fan of the Oscars already, but this year I am especially excited about 6 of the 9 Best Picture nominees since those 6 are all movies adapted from books...and good books at that.

Here is the link from the Early Word post where they break it all down.  It includes a list of the 13 movies that received a major category nomination and are based upon a book. There is a mistake in the post saying that Hugo did not receive a Best Picture nomination.  It did.

The post also includes links to Early Word's amazing book to film archives.

This is a great for library displays.  When The Adventures of Tin Tin came out in theaters, our fearless BPL RA leader Kathy, dusted off the old graphic novels (literally, they needed some dusting off) and placed them prominently on top of the popular Browsers Corner with a sign about the movie.  Those books flew off the shelves.  I even worked with a 60-something woman who had never read a graphic novel before and simply fell in love with the books.

By displaying the book versions of popular movies, you are helping your patrons, highlighting your back list, and making your services shine.

Why not take advantage of this windfall the Academy is offering to us at the library and get your Books of the 2012 Oscars display up today.  All you need is a small space for a few books.  The buzz created by the rest of the media will do the rest of the work toward getting these wonderful books into the hands of readers.

Seriously, stop reading this and go pull these books.  Show your patrons that you are thinking of them before they even have to ask you for help.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hot Author of the Moment: Ben Marcus

Ben Marcus has been everywhere recently.  The other day, I heard him on NPR talking about his intriguing new book The Flame Alphabet.  Here is the novel's concept in one sentence from the publisher: "A terrible epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal."

This seemed right up my alley, and Marcus' interview reminded me of one of my 2011 favorites, The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta.  So of course I placed a hold immediately.  I got Berwyn's copy today.  I have to say, as cool as the book sounds, it really has a pretty awful cover.  Seriously, how does this lame and bright cover help sell this quirky and dark book.

But that is an aside.  You can read my post on the importance of covers in helping readers here.

So, I was already enamored with Marcus when  this essay he wrote for The Wall Street Journal caught my eye.  Entitled "Strong Emotions, Delivered by Stealth," the writing professor side of Marcus explains how the best authors are able to get us to care so much about a fictional character that we are moved to actual emotions. This is an essay about how to write fiction but it is not written for authors, it is written for us readers.

It made me recall specific books or scenes that have really moved me. For example, I will never forget how the end of Cold Mountain did more than just bring a tear to my eye, it literally had me sobbing, and I am not the sobbing at a book type, more just the teary eyed type.  I also recall leading a book discussion of Atonement during which a participant was so physically angry at the main character, Briony Tallis, that she stood up and started pointing and yelling at another group member who was defending the fictional character.

Actually, come to think of it, this behavior was not that unique.  I have led many a book discussion like this in which I have had to verbally remind the group to stop getting so worked up about the behavior of a specific character in a novel.  Yes, I have had to remind people many times that "these are not real people."  But I also then direct the group to the point that the author must be doing a great job if we feel this strongly about a fake person.

So anyone who has ever cried at the end of a book or wanted to sucker punch a character, read Marcus' essay.  I'll come back to Marcus the novelist in a few weeks with a review of The Flame Alphabet.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Discussion: Favorite Genre Fiction or Audiobooks

In honor of the RUSA awards given out last night for the best of 2011's adult genre fiction and audiobooks which are posted here and here, I wanted to ask all of you about your favorite genre titles or audiobooks.

To be fair, you were all not reading the best of the last year for an awards committee, so instead of asking about your favs of 2011, I thought I would see what you have read or listened to in the past couple of years that has continued to stay with you.

I'll go first.  Readers of this blog know that I enjoyed Before I Go to Sleep and The Night Circus both which appeared on the Reading List and I really enjoyed the narration of The Snowman which was on the audiobook list. (title links go to my reviews)

But in the past couple of years, I have to say my favorite audiobook experience was listening to Stieg Larsson's  Millennium Trilogy.  As I mentioned in my reviews, here and here, there is no way I would have gotten through the pronunciations of places and names in those books, let alone the complex plots, without the brilliant and steady work of Simon Vance's narration.  I am now a Simon Vance fan for life thanks to his work on those three novels.

In genre fiction over the last few years, nothing has captured my attention more than The Passage by Justin Cronin in the horror/dark fantasy/science fiction genres (depending on your opinion on where it fits) or the pure enchanting captivation I feel when I enter the world of the Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley. (link is to review of the latest installment; it contains links to other reviews). What is so remarkable here is how completely different these two series are, yet I am utterly infatuated with both.

Now it is your turn.  What genre reads and/or audiobooks are among your favorites of the last few years?  Share either or both.

You can follow past Monday Discussions here.

RUSA Outstanding Audiobook Narration Awards

Busy day for awards today.  Before the Monday Discussion, I wanted to also post the RUSA Listen List.  Again, I cannot stress enough how useful and helpful these RUSA lists are to librarians everywhere.  No where else will you find awards geared toward all of your adult leisure readers in one place.

In this case, the committee, including my co-teacher, Joyce Saricks who has literally written the book on audiobook RA and is the reason I now like audiobooks, has considered the entire sphere of leisure reading audiobooks regardless of genre.  This is their inaugural list, and I am so glad to have it.  Here is the link, but the press release is also attached below.

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has announced its selection for the 2012 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration juried list.

The list was selected by The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration Council, whose members include Jodi L. Israel, library technology expert and veteran audiobook reviewer, Birmingham, AL; Bonnie Kunzel, youth services and adolescent literacy consultant, Germantown, Tenn.; Joyce Saricks, Dominican University, River Forest, Ill.; Kaite Stover, readers’ services manager, Kansas City (MO) Public Library; and Neal Wyatt, chair, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Established in 2010 by the Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) of RUSA, the Council seeks to highlight extraordinary listening experiences that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. The Listen List recognizes and honors the narrators who create these experiences. Titles are selected because they are a pleasure to listen to and make one reluctant to stop listening; because the narration of the book creates a new experience, offering listeners something they could not create by their own visual reading; and because the narrator achieves an outstanding performance in terms of voice, accents, pitch, tone, inflection, rhythm and pace.

This inaugural juried list, designed for avid listeners and those new to the joys of being read a story, includes literary and genre fiction, memoir and history and features voices that enthrall, delight and inspire.

The 2012 winners are:

All Clear by Connie Willis. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Brilliance Audio. (ISBN 978-1-4418-7576-1).
This sequel to Blackout, a stellar science fiction adventure, follows the plight of a group of historians from 2060, trapped in WWII England during the Blitz. In a narrative tour de force, Kellgren brings to life a large cast of characters, including a pair of street-smart urchins who capture the hearts of characters and listeners alike.

Away by Amy Bloom. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat. HighBridge.
Pirate King by Laurie R. King. Narrated by Jenny Sterlin. Recorded Books.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Narrated by Josephine Bailey. Books on Tape.

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Narrated by Tina Fey. Hachette Audio. (ISBN 978-1-60941-969-1). AudioGO. (ISBN 978-1-60941-719-2).
In a very funny memoir made decidedly funnier by its reader, Tina Fey relates sketches and memories of her time at SNL and Second City as well as the difficulties of balancing career and motherhood. In a voice dripping with wit, she acts out the book, adding extra-aural elements that print simply cannot convey.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. Narrated by David Sedaris. Hachette Audio.
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. Narrated by Sloane Crosley. Penguin Audio.
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. Narrated by Sarah Vowell. Simon & Schuster Audio.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley. Narrated by Dominic Hoffman. Penguin Audio. (ISBN 978-0-14-242856-6). Books on Tape. (ISBN 978-0-3078-7583-9).
Dominic Hoffman reads this elegiac novel of memory and redemption with fierce grace, inhabiting Mosley’s characters with voices perfectly crafted in pitch and rhythm. His rough, gravely narration manages the pace and mood of the book with astounding skill, brilliantly capturing the mental clarity and fog of 91-year-old Ptolemy Grey’s world.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan. Narrated by Andrea Gallo. Recorded Books.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. Narrated by Jeff Woodman. Recorded Books.
Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler. Narrated by Arthur Morey. Random House Audio. Books on Tape.

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert. Narrated by Edward Herrmann. Hachette Audio (ISBN 978-1-60941-035-3). AudioGO. (ISBN 978-1-61113-792-7).
Ebert’s clear-eyed account chronicles his life from his youth in Urbana, Illinois, to his fame as a world-renowned film critic in Chicago. Herrmann’s engaging, affable reading mirrors the author’s tone—honest, often humorous, sometimes bittersweet—as he unhurriedly ushers listeners through Ebert’s moving reflections on a life well-lived.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin. Narrated by Steve Martin. Simon & Schuster Audio. Recorded Books.
Chapters from My Autobiography by Mark Twain. Narrated by Bronson Pinchot. AudioGO.
Life by Keith Richards and James Fox. Narrated by Keith Richards, Johnny Depp, and Joe Hurley.  Hachette Audio.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson. NAXOS. (ISBN 978-184-379-439-4).
Juliet Stevenson brings crisp clarity, a witty sensibility, and a charming tonal quality to Eliot’s masterpiece of provincial life. Through her deft management of pacing and tone, she reveals character motivation and illuminates the many themes of the novel. But most of all she reclaims Eliot for listeners who thought they did not enjoy classics.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Narrated by Lorna Raver. Blackstone Audio.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Narrated by Nadia May. Blackstone Audio.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Narrated by Josephine Bailey. Tantor Media.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading. Penguin Audio. (ISBN 978-0-14-242830-6).
In this Regency Christmas caper, a pudding, a spy, a hilarious school theatrical, and a memorable country house party lead to laughter, love, and an offer of marriage. Reading’s lovely English accent and exuberance are a perfect fit for the wide range of characters, from young girls to male teachers to members of the aristocracy.

The Black Cobra Quartet series by Stephanie Laurens. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Harper Audio. Blackstone Audio.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy. Narrated by Ralph Cosham. Blackstone Audio.
The Talisman Ring. Georgette Heyer. Narrated by Phyllida Nash. AudioGO.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Narrated by Emily Gray. Recorded Books. (ISBN 978-1-4498-4675-6).
In this genre-bending romp, the “written” Thursday must rescue the “real” Thursday from a nefarious Bookworld plot. Emily Gray wears Thursday like a second skin, as she does the robots, dodos, and space aliens running around. The story is paced such that every nuance of pun and word play is captured and rendered aurally.

Blackout by Connie Willis. Narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Brilliance Audio.
The Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries series by Christopher Fowler. Narrated by Tim Goodman. Recorded Books/Clipper Audio.
Relative Danger by Charles Benoit. Narrated by Patrick Lawlor. Blackstone Audio.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley. Narrated by Jayne Entwistle.  Random House Audio (ISBN 978-0-307-57643-9). Books On Tape. (ISBN 978-0-3077-0479-5).
Flavia de Luce, a terrifyingly proficient 11-year-old amateur chemist and sleuth, investigates the beating of a gypsy and the death of a villager in this third outing. Entwistle’s spot-on narration reveals the irrepressible, intrepid heroine’s prowess and captures a delicious range of secondary characters in these whimsical mysteries set in 1950s rural England.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Narrated by Sissy Spacek. Harper Audio/Caedmon. Recorded Books.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessi. Narrated by Emily Janice Card. Penguin Audio. Books on Tape.
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. Narrated by Lorelei King. Macmillan Audio. BBC Audiobooks America.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. Narrated by Robin Sachs. Random House Audio. (ISBN 978-0-307-91750-8). Books On Tape. (ISBN 978-0-307-91752-2).
The icy chill of the Norwegian countryside and a series of cold-blooded murders dominate this Harry Hole crime novel. Sachs contrasts Hole’s world-weary professional attitude, his unquenchable thirst for justice, and his yearning for love and comfort, as he skillfully maintains a suspenseful pace and projects an overarching sense of doom.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Narrated by Simon Vance. Books on Tape.
Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson. Narrated by George Guidall. Recorded Books.
Rain Gods by James Lee Burke. Narrated by Tom Stechschulte. Recorded Books.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Narrated by Simon Prebble. Blackstone Audio. (ISBN 978-1-4551-0867-1).
The tragedy and heroism of the French Revolution come alive through Prebble’s distinctive and graceful narration. As the lives of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton intersect, Prebble takes listeners deep into France and England, narrating terrifying descriptions and breathless acts of courage with a cadence that sweeps one away.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Narrated by George Guidall. Recorded Books.
Sharpe’s Fury by Bernard Cornwell. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Recorded Books.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Narrated by Frederick Davidson. Blackstone Audio.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. Narrated by Susan Duerden and Robin Sachs. Random House Audio (978-0-307-87700-0). Books On Tape. (ISBN 978-0-307-87702-4).
In this imaginative novel, Balkan physician Natalia, on a mission of mercy, learns of her beloved grandfather’s death. Duerden’s mesmerizing voice leads listeners through the complexities of this rich novel with its intertwining stories, while Sachs memorably relates her grandfather’s haunting tales in a gentle and gruff voice.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Narrated by Anna Fields. Harper Audio. Blackstone Audio.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Narrated by Jeff Woodman, Barbara Caruso, Richard Ferrone. Recorded Books.
Pretty Birds by Scott Simon. Narrated by Christina Moore. Recorded Books.

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. Narrated by Nathaniel Philbrick. Penguin Audio. (ISBN 978-1-61176-024-8). Books on Tape. (ISBN 978-0-307-96967-5)
In what should be required reading before cracking the pages of Moby-Dick, Nathaniel Philbrick’s homage to this great American novel compels the listener to experience Melville with an almost incandescent joy. His voice resonates with palpable enthusiasm and calls to mind a New England professor giving a fascinating lecture.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Narrated by Frank Muller. Recorded Books.
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. Narrated by Pat Conroy. Random House Audio. Books on Tape.
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt. Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. Recorded Books.

RUSA Reading List for Adult Genre Fiction

All the librarians are in Dallas at the ALA Mid-Winter conference and that means it is time for all of their awards.  The RUSA Reading List is the best award for all the RA librarians out there because it takes the major genres and gives a winner, with backlist readalike and watchalike options.  There is also a list of honorable mentions.

This award is really the only place where one group picks award winners in all of the major genres of adult popular fiction.  So following is the official press release with all the details for the 2012 winners (books which came out in 2011).

Also coming is the Monday Discussion which will ask you to pick your favorite genre books from 2011.

Press Release link

The expert readers’ advisory librarians on the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Reading List Council have selected their top picks for 2012 in eight popular genres: adrenaline titles (including suspense, thrillers, and action adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction, and women’s fiction.

The Council, which consists of twelve librarians who are experts in readers’ advisory and collection development, selects one book from each of these genres, as well as a short list of honor titles–up to four per genre. The result is a list of recommended novels that will please die-hard fans as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction.

The winning titles were selected by the Reading List Council, whose members include: Sharron Smith, chair, Kitchener Public Library; Megan McArdle, vice chair, Berkeley Public Library; Alicia Ahlvers, Kansas City Public Library; Craig Clark, Akron, Ohio; Kathleen Collins, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle; Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Louisiana; Gillian Speace, NoveList, Durham, N.C.; Miriam Tuliao, New York Public; Kimberly Wells, Denton Public Library; and Michelle Young, Hawaii State Public Library System.

The 2012 winners are:

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson, Harper Collins, 9780062060556
Each morning, Christine wakes with no memory. From the clues she left herself, she tries to piece together her identity and sort lies from the truth. The unrelenting pace thrusts the reader into the
confusion of a waking nightmare in which revelations of her past lead to a frantic crescendo.

The Likeness by Tana French
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Memento (Summit Entertainment, 2000)

Short List:
Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton, St. Martin’s, 9780312600525
Spiral by Paul McEuen, Dial Press, 9780385342117
The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill, Harper Collins, 9780062060747
You’re Next by Gregg Hurwitz, St. Martin’s, 9780312534912


The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, 9780385534635
Le Cirque des Rêves is utterly unique, disappearing at dawn in one town only to mysteriously reappear in another. At the heart of the circus are two young magicians, involved in a competition neither completely understands. The dreamlike atmosphere and vivid imagery make this fantasy unforgettable.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Prestige (Touchstone Pictures, 2006)

Short List:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Little, Brown, 9780316134026
The Magician King by Lev Grossman, Viking, 9780670022311
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, DAW, 9780756404734
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, Angry Robot, 9780857660558

Historical Fiction

Doc by Mary Doria Russell, Random House, 9781400068043
In the early days of Dodge City, a genteel, tubercular Southern dentist forges a friendship with the infamous Earp brothers. Combining historical details and lyrical language, this gritty psychological portrait of gunslinger Doc Holliday reveals how the man became the legend.

Deadwood by Pete Dexter
Etta by Gerald Kolpan
Gunman’s Rhapsody by Robert B. Parker

Short List:
Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith, Pocket Books, 9781439198865
Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman, Putnam, 9780399157851
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, Viking, 9780670022694
The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning, Penguin, 9780452296954


The Ridge by Michael Koryta, Little, Brown, 9780316053662
The unexplained death of an eccentric lighthouse keeper in the isolated Kentucky woods, followed by a mysterious threat to a nearby large cat sanctuary prompt an investigation by a journalist and the local sheriff. Palpable evil and a sense of dread drive this chilling tale.

The Dead Path by Stephen Irwin
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Short List:
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, Knopf, 9780307595089
The Night Strangers, by Chris Bohjalian, Crown, 9780307394996
Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory, Del Rey, 9780345522375
The White Devil by Justin Evans, Harper Collins, 9780061728273


The Devotion of Suspect X  by Keigo Higashino, Minotaur, 9780312375065
An introverted mathematician matches wits with a brilliant former colleague to protect the neighbor he secretly adores from a murder charge. Although the reader knows the murderer’s identity from the beginning, this unconventional Japanese mystery remains a taut psychological puzzle.

Out by Natsuo Kirino
Think of a Number by John Verdon
Sherlock (BBC, 2010-2012)

Short List:
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran, Houghton, Mifflin, 9780547428499
Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill, Minotaur, 9780312564537
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, Knopf, 9780307595867
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny, Minotaur, 9780312655457


Silk is for Seduction, by Loretta Chase, Avon, 9780061632686
Ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot will do almost anything to secure the patronage of the Duke of Clevendon’s intended bride. Neither her calculated business plan nor his campaign of seduction can withstand the force of their mutual attraction. Witty banter and strong-willed characters make this a memorable tale.

Dangerous in Diamonds by Madeline Hunter
The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
Untie My Heart by Judith Ivory

Short List:
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison, Berkley, 9780425241509
A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran, Pocket, 9781451606935
My One And Only by Kristin Higgins, Harlequin, 9780373775576
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, Avon, 9780062021274

Science Fiction

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, Orbit, 9780316129084
The missions of a jaded cop and a dedicated ice hauler officer collide as the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. A mystery adds a noir touch to this space opera featuring deeply flawed yet heroic characters, non-stop action, and Earth versus Mars politics.

Up Against It by M. J. Locke
Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton
The Quiet War by Paul J. McAuley

Short List:
Embassytown by China Miéville, Del Rey, 9780345524492
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, Tor, 9780765329493
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Crown, 9780307887436
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, Algonquin, 9781565126299

Women’s Fiction

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh Ballantine, 9780345525543
A former foster child struggles to overcome a past filled with abuse, neglect and anger. Communicating through the Victorian language of flowers allows her to discover hope, redemption and a capacity for love. Damaged, authentic characters create an emotional tension in this profoundly moving story.

Like Family by Paula McLain (NF)
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys
White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Short List:
Deep Down True by Juliette Fay, Penguin, 9780143118510
Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister, Putnam, 9780399157127
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, Putnam, 9780399157226
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, Penguin, 9780141043760

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Battle of 2011's Best and Best to Come in 2012

I was going through my RSS feeds yesterday and found two things that on their own are interesting, but paired together are fun.

First, one of my favorite events of the  year has begun, the annual battle of the books over on The Morning News.  Basically they run a bracket system like the NCAA basketball tourney where the previous year's best books battle it out for supremacy.  They use guest editors to stage the battles and make the decision.  It is a wonderufl way to wrap up the dueling "best of the year" lists.  Click here for all of the info.

So I will let the good people at The Morning News close out 2011 in the world of books (although my votes are for Swamplandia or the Sister's Brothers).

So now let's move to 2012.  I love this calendar from the people at Book Page.  It breaks down the most anticiapted book of 2012 by month.  I will use this calendar all year.  I can use it to plan for collection development purposes, and for my own sake.  I may have to start a countdown to the publication of The Twelve I am so excited for it (scroll to August).

There you have it.  Out with the old and in with the new!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BPL Book Discussion: Crashing Through

On Monday, we began our 2012 run of book discussions at the BPL.  We began with Robert Kurson's Crashing Through.  From the publisher:
Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision. Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May’s vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children’s faces. But the procedure was filled with gambles, some of them deadly, others beyond May’s wildest dreams. Beautifully written and thrillingly told, Crashing Through is a journey of suspense, daring, romance, and insight into the mysteries of vision and the brain. Robert Kurson gives us a fascinating account of one man’s choice to explore what it means to see–and to truly live.
One more thing before I get into the discussion.  There were no questions available to discuss this book online; however, my paperback copy did have questions in the back.  I used these as a guide and did add one specific question about how the author chose to recount May's story (more on that later).  If your group wants to do this book and you do not have access to the paperback edition, please contact me and I can copy the pages for you.

On to our discussion:

  • If you follow our book discussion reports you know the drill by now.  I began by asking who liked, disliked, and was so-so on the book.  We had 9 liked, 2 so-sos, and 0 disliked.
  • The so-sos mostly centered around May.  These two people liked the book, but couldn't get past the fact that May was too arrogant for them.  He was not someone they particularly liked as a person, despite the fact that they were intrigued by and completely respected him.  Particularly people were upset by how he treated his wife.  For example, more than once in their marriage, he asked her for a divorce because he didn't want to deal with the nagging and squabbles.  Others were turned off by his obsession with seeing beautiful women.
  • But, overall, people not only liked this book, they were riveted by it.  The combination of the science about how people see, the personal story of May (both his amazing accomplishments when blind and his courage to try to see after a lifetime of blindness), and the inspirational tone of the book were enchanting.  Interestingly, just about everyone was surprised by how much they enjoyed the book.
  • May's Mom: Lots mentioned here.  Some wanted more about her.  Others felt like she was a bit too risky with May.  She let him do the craziest things and always fought for him.  This allowed May to be blind but function easily in the sighted world.  We all agreed that we could never have been this way with our children.  But we respected her greatly.
  • We could barely talk about the needles May had to have to the eye in order to save the transplant from being rejected.  I get the willies just typing this.
  • We loved how Kurson integrated the science into the story.  The doctors Fine and Goodman were mentioned as being portrayed well.  We all also felt like this book and May's work with his doctors will help mankind and medical science for years to come; way past all of our lifetimes.
  • May made a list of pros and cons as to whether or not to try the surgery that could make him see again (but also could fail at anytime and the medicines involved could give him cancer).  His con list was VERY long.  But the pro list had 1 thing: curiosity.  May was curious to see what would happen.  Curiosity, taking risks, and pushing limits defined May throughout his entire life.  We talked about this.  Someone said, "Thank God for people like him who are always trying to find something new." We totally understood why he went for the surgery, but none of us felt we shared any of his risk taking abilities.  We also felt this curiosity also allowed him to  make his brain understand what he was seeing even when the doctors thought this would be impossible.  That part of the book, when May figures out how to see, was most people's favorite part of the book.
  • We passed around my iPhone to all look at the website for Sendero, May's company which invented and produces GPS systems for the blind.  There is also more information about May, this book, and his work as an inspirational speaker there. After so many failed inventions and start-ups were were glad to see that he finally had success at business.
  • We all were intrigued by the strength and personality of May's wife Jennifer.  She truly is a patient and understanding partner.
  • We spent some time talking about how the book was written.  Kurson seamlessly moves between the human interest story and the science.  He made the story very personal, but kept himself completely out of it.  We also appreciated Kurson's skill as a writer.  "He uses words very well," said one participant.
  • One of my favorite comments about the universality of this book, "We could all learn from Mike by asking ourselves "What am I good at?" especially when we get stuck."  This is how May tackled the problem of his vision not improving after the surgery.  He did not focus on what was wrong or what he was doing badly.  We all resolved to try to solve problems this way in the future.  We could all benefit by turning to our strengths in times of trouble, rather than dwelling on our failings.
  • We spent some time talking about the way Mike sees and how it is different from people who have had sight for their entire lives.  This was a long conversation, but I do want to mention how weird we found it that optical illusions (which we all thought were universal) do not work on May.
  • After reading this book we talked about how we now look at the world differently.  We all agreed that we are noticing more details.  One person even tried to walk around her house with her eyes closed.
  • As we wound down I pointedly asked the group if they would be willing to take the risks May did in order to see, especially considering how secure and fulfilled he was as a blind person.  A few responses: "To look into the eyes of your children is worth it." "Examining your partner's body was so romantic." "If I had been blind for life, I don't think I could have been able to imagine what it would mean to see, so no."  And, "I would not have taken the risk."
  • We moved to the title, which interestingly does not mention anything about being blind.  We loved  it because it describes May; he is a guy who always was crashing through.  We loved that it had a happy ending.  And finally, we decided this would be the perfect book for a coach to read and use to motivate his team.
  • And, for our grand finale as always, I asked the group to give me words or phrases to sum up the book:
    • inspirational
    • innovative
    • scientific
    • not-boring
    • thought provoking
    • engaging
    • exciting
    • heart warming
    • unstoppable attitude
    • motivational
    • ground breaking
    • informative
    • compelling
Readalikes:  There are many ways to go here.  A participant said that this book reminded her of the writings and essays of Indian-American Ved Mehta who lost his sight as a child and has since gone on to be a well known scholar.  She highly recommended his memoir, Face to Face.

NoveList suggested a few other books about being blind.  Eclipse by Hugh de Montalembert and Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto both look interesting.

However, as a group, while we found all of the information about being blind and how the brain takes what our eyes see to give us full sight, I would not say it was our main appeal.  Remember when I asked people to give me a single word or phrase about the book above?  Not a single person said "blind" or "sight" or "eyes."

So the true appeal of this book (for our group at least) lies in the writing and the inspirational story.

In terms of inspirational, Crashing Through reminded us of when we read, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  Click through to see that report.

The group mentioned over and over again, how nice it was to learn so much about something technical and scientific wrapped up in a very readable and compelling story.  These comments made me think about other authors whose works also bridge the gap between the specialist and the average reader with compelling jargon free prose.  I have come up with the following list of suggested authors:
Finally, on a personal note, reading Crashing Through showed me once again why I so disliked 2010's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  While both Skloot and Kurson spent countless hours with the families involved in these heart wrenching stories of medical miracles, Skloot put herself in the "story" of her book, while Kurson kept himself out of the story completely.  In fact, it was not until I read the "Notes" section of Crashing Through that I even knew he lived with the Mays for long periods of time in order to write this story, that is how natural the story flowed.

I mentioned this to the group, many of who read and enjoyed Skloot's popular book too.  Not many of them were bothered by this difference.  So, while I cannot say for me it was the case, I think these two popular medical memoirs are good readalike options for each other.

Finally, if you want to hear the interview between Kurson and May that is on the audiobook edition, click here.  It was recorded 7 years after the interviews in the book.  For audiobook fans, May spends some time talking about the appeal of a good audiobook toward the end of the interview also.

Ebook Collection Development Survey

Please help out the good people at Booklist by taking this eBook collection development survey.

From the survey:

Help us understand the collection development process for e-books at your library.
If your library offers trade e-books (fiction and nonfiction, not reference e-books) to patrons, please take this important Booklist survey on e-book collection development. The survey should take about 5 minutes to complete. Your input will help us put together a snapshot of how libraries manage e-book collections in the real world and will help shape future Booklist webinars, feature content, and reviews.
(Please note that we’re not seeking information about reference platforms in this survey.)

Use this link.  The more opinions and thoughts they get, the better they can help us in the future.


I will be back later with my book discussion report. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Arty Fiction

Today, my children have an Institute Day, so we are heading with friends on the train into Chicago to spend the day at The Art Institute of Chicago.  Planning our day took my thought to some of the wonderful historical fiction about art and artists that is widely available.

The two authors who do the best job consistently writing about art and artists are Susan Vreeland and Tracy Chevalier. Both writers are able to tell a compelling story that is centered around a piece of art.  But most importantly, they are able to use their prose as a means to capture the beauty and expression of the visual medium.  This is quite a feat. Their skill at revealing a work of art with words alone is impressive.

Here are some other novels I would suggest to readers looking for arty fiction.  Please note, I am not trying to be comprehensive with this list, rather I am striving to offer a broad selection of titles which prominently feature art.  Since Chevalier and Vreeland are both so popular, I often find that readers think if they do not like these two authors, they are not going to like any arty books.  That is absolutely incorrect.  Just like every other type of book, there is something for every reader who wants a novel featuring art or artists.

  • For those who want a little more romance with their art, I would suggest The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant.
  • For those whose reading tastes veer more into adventure, The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte is a great choice.
  • For those who want to read about art in the Islamic world, try My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk.
  • For those who want a creepy psychological suspense tale, The Portrait by Iain Pears is a dark look into the mind of a disturbed artist.
  • Want more of a traditional literary thriller? Try The Dark Clue by James Wilson.
  • For a fictionalized biography of a Chinese artist try The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Epstein Cody.  As a side note, you can find a fictional biography for just about any artist; I am simply choosing this one as an example.
As I said, this is just a sampling of what is out there.  I tried to offer something different with each suggestion.

If this list intrigues you, I also want to point you to the Masterpieces In Detail calendar that we got for our house this year.  The entire family is enjoying the pictures and the wonderfully written narratives about the art, artists, and time period in which these works were produced.  It is like going to the art museum every day.

Please let me know if you have any favorite arty novels to share.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Discussion: Community Service

It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day today and we are open here at the BPL.  Which is also why I was so late on the Monday Discussion this morning; we have been busy.

One of the nice things about MLK Day is how the country has used the example of Dr. King and made celebrating this day more than just an extra day off of school for kids.  It has become a day of service.  Employers encourage their workers to take the day off and often arrange for a group service project.

This got me thinking about our jobs as public library workers.  Yes, you can not work with leisure readers without loving to read, but all of us who choose to ply our profession at the public library do so because we care about helping people.  Our job is all about community service.

The library is a place used by people representing all subsets of your community.  I know for me, being able to help all comers with any question they may have, and thus, making their day a little better, is why I do this.  Goodness knows it is not for the money.

Helping people with whatever they need from the latest best seller to tax forms, to medical information to help them to understand a new diagnosis better, for example, is why I am here.  When I ask you if you need help, I truly want to be the one to help you.

I still remember a patron from years ago who I helped to find an obituary in our local paper from the 1930s.  For this patron it was the last piece of a genealogy puzzle he had been working on for decades. The question was simple to me, but to him, it was everything.  This ability to provide life altering services to people every day and not charging them for it, is a joy.

So I thought for today, in honor of the King holiday, I would ask everyone to share their stories of service.  If you don't work in a public library, share a personal story.

You can follow past Monday Discussions here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

For Love of Acknowledgements

I am a sucker for author acknowledgments.  I always read them.  I like how who the author chooses to acknowledge and why adds another dimension to the text.  I sometimes consider plot points or characters in a different light after reading the author's acknowledgements. To me, getting a glimpse into the creative process is interesting and telling.  Also, I have to admit, I have enjoyed being mentioned in acknowledgements myself here and here.

I thought most people did not have an opinion about acknowledgements either way.  This week I learned I was wrong.  The Millions posted an essay entitled, "The Story Behind the Story" by Henriette Lazaridis Power in which she professes her love of acknowledgements, and talks about how best selling author Ann Patchett does not believe in them.  It is an interesting issue to contemplate.  I greatly enjoyed her take on it.

What about you? How do you feel about acknowledgements?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nancy Pearl Teams Up With.....Amazon?

I was all set to write about something else today, but then I saw this article in my daily Shelf Awareness email.  I will cross post it at the bottom of this post, but the gist is that Nancy Pearl, America's most famous librarian and champion of local book stores is going to begin publishing books with Amazon exclusively.  She will be donating the money to her scholarship fund, but still.  Her other argument is that she is championing the backlist, another issue close to my heart.  But still.

This news is troubling to me, especially given that I am about to go pick up the 40 book club books I ordered from my favorite local, independent bookstore, The Book Table.  While they give the library a very good deal, and I have tax exempt status when buying for the library, I could probably still save a couple bucks by buying them from Amazon.  But where would that leave me?

Jason and Rachel and their staff at The Book Table are huge library supporters and enhance our community by simply being open.  I send patrons there all of the time when the book they need "immediately" is off the shelf at all of the area libraries.  They have yet to fail me.  In fact, I sent somewhere there just on Monday to grab a nonfiction title which was needed for school.  I used their online stock search and found the patron a used copy for just over $5.  If I didn't support them by buying books from them, they wouldn't be there to help me and my patrons when we needed to something.  And who else could I talk to about books?  Sometimes even I crave book conversation with non-librarians.

Besides, Jason and I are part of a three person team that puts on a fun presentation called, Back to Books.  We will be appearing next at Reaching Forward on May 4th.

Anyway, click through or read the article below.  I am sure Nancy Pearl will have a lot to say about the reaction to her announcement in the coming days. I say in the mean time, visit your local book seller.  I will be at The Book Table tomorrow.


Seattle Shocker: Pearl to Publish with Amazon

Nancy Pearl, the former librarian and bookseller, author of the Book Lust series, NPR book commentator and champion of reading, libraries and independent bookstores, is launching the Book Lust Rediscoveries series with Amazon.com.

The series of about six books a year will consist of Pearl's favorite out-of-print books that will be available "in print editions via Amazon.com and as audiobooks via Amazon.com and Audible.com, at bookstores, wholesalers and libraries nationwide and as eBooks in the Kindle Store," Amazon said. The company's statement had no information on how non-Amazon outlets might be able to obtain the printed versions of the books. The books will include introductions by Pearl, a list of discussion questions for book groups and suggestions for similar titles.

Pearl will donate part of the proceeds from the books' sales to the Nancy Pearl Endowment for Public Librarianship at the University of Washington's Information School. "Helping these wonderful books find new readers is, for me, a joy and a delight," Pearl said, adding that she has received many requests from readers who found some of her recommended titles--a significant number of which are out-of-print--difficult to find.

The first two titles in the series are:
  • A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller, to be published April 3. ("Joshua Bland tells the story of his life growing up in small-town Iowa as a child prodigy to his career as a theater producer and his most recent divorce: a life marked by a failure to love and be loved.")
  • After Life by Rhian Ellis, which appears June 5. ("A charming novel that's part psychological thriller, partly a story of mothers and daughters, and partly something entirely original.")
The move has shocked some people in the industry. The Stranger, the Seattle website, outlined why: "Pearl built her fame on a career at Seattle Public Library and through partnerships with local bookstores. Many of the local librarians and independent booksellers who supported her can't stand Amazon.com, which means that things could get a little awkward around here real soon."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Reading Maps!

As I get ready for the new semester of library students starting a week from today, I realized that I never posted the 3 excellent reading maps that were done by my students at the end of last semester.

As usual, I have added them to the Reading Maps page here on RA for All, but for those of you who only want to see the new ones they are:

All three were excellent.

I am also happy to announce that the Berwyn Library RA Department will begin posting our own reading maps starting in 2012.  We will work as a group to provide this fabulous service for our patrons based on their reading needs and requests.

It has been great to be able to share the work my students are doing with patrons, but in the public library there is no substitute for specific services tailored to your local community's needs.  So we are going to all make a go of it by creating reading maps for the books our patrons love.

Of course, I will keep you posted on our progress.  And I will continue to highlight the work my students are doing.  I get a whole new crop of them on the 18th.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Annual Award For Meanest Reviews

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how it doesn't matter if I personally liked a book or not, rather, it is all about finding the right reader for every book.  As RA librarians, it is our job to think about the appeal of the book on its own terms.  What about this book's pacing, storyline, mood, tone, characterizations, etc.. would make someone like it?

I have tried to practice what I preach.  Here are a few examples of books I really did not enjoy personally, but then consciously separated those feelings from my work in a review:
But that is how we roll in the nonjudgmental world of readers' advisory.  Out in the cut-throat world of professional book reviewing, things can get ugly...very ugly.  Ugly enough to have an award for "The Hatchet Job of the Year."

Click through to this article from FlavorWire on The Omnivore's decision to have an award for the meanest reviews of the year.  All 8 finalists and the publication they appeared in are linked here.  The winner will be announced February 7th.

I liked reading through these for a nice change of pace.  Sometimes it is tiring to have to always be positive about every book.  I am committed to doing it, and particularly, I find great joy in matching a book I did not enjoy with someone who ends up loving it; however, when a book really irks me, I will turn to these truly nasty reviews to help put it all in perspective.

Now is your chance though.  If you want to get your hatred for a book out of your system before you accidentally express those views to a patron, leave your comments here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Discussion: Predict the Trends for 2012

Today I want to look back on the trends from 2011 and try to predict what will be popular in 2012.  Why don't you help me?

Some (not all) of the more memorable trends from 2011 (with links) were:
Some of these were continuations from 2010, but there are always new trends popping up.

Things I think (or in some cases, hope) will be trends in 2012 include:
[Please note: this list is to be read with sarcasm]
  • Libraries increase their fight against the eBook publishers for more say in how we acquire and loan electronic books.  Right now, we are all sitting back and taking it.  I see cage match in our future.
  • The number of series finally outpace standalone books meaning if your book doesn't have a sequel, I will have to weed it.
  • People get sick of the cold and darkness of Nordic Noir and switch to the bright warmth of Caribbean Crime.
  • Zombies, vampires, and werewolves are forgotten for a renewed interest in angels and cuddly animals.  And just in time for my new book to come out, meaning no one will want to buy it.
Okay, now it is your turn.  For today's Monday Discussion, what do you think will be the trends of 2012?  Make your list funny, serious, or a combination of the two like I did.

Click here to follow past discussions.

Friday, January 6, 2012

RA Links Roundup--Courtesy of The MIllions

From time to time I post a list of interesting and useful links that have saved but didn't get a chance to blog about on their own.  Today is that, but with a twist.

The Millions is one of my favorite places to read what others have to say about books and reading on the web.  Today they have finished crunching the 2011 numbers and have presented their list of the 20 most popular stories on their site which were published in 2011.  And they have another list of the top 10 stories which were published before 2011.  Finally, there is their list of the sites which drove the most traffic to them.  Click here for the full article of The Millions Meta-Data 2011.

This list in and of itself is a great RA tool to see what stories and issues captured the most attention last year.  It allows you to see trends and appeal over a large group during an entire year.  When you are working at the RA desk, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day minutiae of your job-- helping patrons find specific books, placing holds for James Patterson, making sure you have enough copies of the newest David Baldacci, getting the returned books back on the shelf until more shelvers are hired.

It is nice to step back and think about your work helping readers from this wider perspective.  I know I will take some time this weekend to read through these articles and use what I learn to energize me as I return back to my regular work schedule on Monday.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Audiobooks Being Pulled From Libraries

With all of the hoopla surrounding publishers trying to rework their library lending models when it comes to loaning ebooks to libraries there is a more sinister issue which snuck into the conversation in the last few days.  Audiobook publishers pulling their titles from library download services!

I understand that publishers are worried about the lending library model not working the same for ebooks (which never get lost, stolen, or literally break apart) as they do for physical tomes, but now, audiobook publishers are using that argument to start pulling their titles from downloadable services too.

Click here to read the Aduiobooker's post about the issue.

As an avid audiobook listener, I am very worried about this.  I have argued in the past that publishers and libraries are going to have to work together to figure out how to have ebooks available in an affordable manner for library patrons.  But I never thought audiobooks would be included in this discussion. Now Amazon is trying to corner the audiobook market and use only their services to sell them.

Audiobooks have been available for download for at least a decade already.  Why change it now? Things have been working out just fine. Publishers have been making plenty of money.  People like me who use their iPods exclusively to listen to audiobooks, still check out the physical audiobook to load on the computer and use for 1 copyright allowed listen before deleting.  They are still selling the physical copy and the digital copy to most libraries.

I am actually more worried about this audiobook related news than about any of the ebook doomsday news like this.

I am not sure what is going to happen, but I will keep you posted.

Click here to read all of my posts about ebooks or here to read all my posts about audiobooks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Take 10: Hot Reads For Cold Nights

I am heading back from a vacation in New England today.  Where I was it turned bitter cold yesterday. Seriously, the high was 5!  But back in Chicago I hear it is going to be close to 50 by the end of the week.

But my brief encounter with true winter temperatures has reminded me of my student Christi's list for her final paper.  She presented a book talk entitled "Hot Reads for Cold Nights." What I liked about this talk is how she considered different "heat sources."

Enjoy the list and look for more from Christi in the coming months as she will be joining the BPL RA Dream Team for the spring semester as part of her course work for her Masters degree.

Heat Source: Location

The Beach by Alex Garland
When a young man travelling through Thailand receives a map to a remote island paradise he believes he has found Eden, but the commune living on the island is not completely what it seems. Despite the warm, tropical location, this novel has a dark and gritty edge.

Duma Key
by Stephen King
When a construction accident causes Edgar Freemantle to lose his arm, his anger, and ultimately his wife, he moves to Duma Key off the coast of Florida to recuperate. There, he discovers a love of painting that may not come entirely from himself. This intricately plotted novel takes place in a warm setting and has a creepy and compelling tone.

Nature Girl by Carl Hiassen
Honey Santana has an issue with telemarketers interrupting her dinner time. It’s worse when they subsequently insult her. When Boyd Shreave commits this most grievous of sins, Santana decides to teach him a lesson. What results is an offbeat and funny adventure through the Florida wilderness.

Heat Source: Heartwarming

Rainwater by Sandra Brown
Living in Texas during the Depression, single mother Ella Barron runs a boarding house to support herself and her son Solly who has autism. A new boarder, David Rainwater, turns life upside down for mother, child, and the entire town. This heartwarming and romantic story takes place in a warm location and contains historical details.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
Former Miss Alabama, Maggie Fortenberry, has a plan to kill herself. With the housing market crash affecting her job as a real estate agent, she feels like a failure. However, her suicidal plans keep getting put on hold as her life just keeps getting in the way. This heartwarming novel has a relaxed pace and a funny and upbeat tone.

Heat Source: Steamy

Just for Kicks by Susan Anderson
Opposites attract in this steamy romance novel. Carly is a Vegas showgirl who loves the single life. Wolfgang works as a security guard at the casino where Carly dances and wants a wife and stable home life. When Wolfgang’s nephew comes to visit and strikes up a friendship with Carly, he decides to try and play matchmaker between his uncle and his new friend. This racy tale is fast-paced, funny and takes place in the desert to boot!

A Kiss of Shadows
by Laurell K. Hamilton
Meredith Gentry works as a private investigator working on supernatural cases in LA. She also happens to be half-faerie and hiding from her aunt who is the Queen of Air and Darkness. When her cover is blown, she finds herself playing a part in her aunt’s power games which include seducing a lot of men. This extremely steamy fantasy novel is both dramatic and compelling.

Heat Source: Heartpumping

The Husband
by Dean Koontz
While working, gardener Mitch receives a call that his wife has been kidnapped and is being held for a two million dollar ransom. With no where near the amount of money the kidnappers are asking for, Mitch must follow instructions in order to get his wife back safely. This intricately plotted novel has a suspenseful feel.

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
Working out of Port Royal, Jamaica in 1665, Captain Charles Hunter has just been hired to find a crew and commandeer a Spanish Galleon filled with gold. He and his motley crew of pirates, all with their own specialties, go on an adventure through the Caribbean. This fast-paced, dramatic and suspenseful novel contains historical details about pirate life.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
A virus has been inserted into a popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game which holds the player’s electronic files for ransom. Richard, the creator of the game, and his niece go on a fast-paced adventure to apprehend the hackers and run into many more villains. This technothriller is complex and reads like a video game.