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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

ARRT Book Discussion Report: The Book of Unknown Americans [Featuring the Author!]

As I mentioned here back in June, the hardest part of leaving my library job was leaving the book group. But as I also said in that post, the end of my time with the BPL group was not going to be the end of me leading book clubs, and it would especially not be the end of me blogging about specific book groups.

Today is the start of a new kind of book discussion report here on RA for All and it comes with its own website.  [Yes that means I am now up to being the webmaster of 4 sites].

Introducing the ARRT Literary Book Discussion and Leadership Training site. From that page:

The Adult Reading Round Table, a group dedicated to developing reader's advisory skills and promoting reading for pleasure through public libraries in the Chicago area, provides all members access to our quarterly [4x a year] literary book discussion and leadership training. 
We give library book discussion leaders the chance to sit back and enjoy being discussion participants while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This “nuts and bolts” training session is offered at the end of each discussion. 
Both the traditional book discussion and the leadership training session will be moderated by a member of the ARRT Steering Committee. Dates, times, locations, and titles will be assigned approximately 10 weeks in advance. Members will be notified by email. If you are a member and wish to attend the discussion, you must register in advance [details in the email] and secure your own copy of the book. 
With a rotating cast of leaders, titles, and locations, we hope our members can find a discussion that fits their schedule.
Now, while coming to the actual discussion requires membership, we are offering the website, including the notes of our discussions for everyone through the site-- for free.

And our most recent discussion of The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez contains something extra special.

The topic for the leadership training portion of the discussion was about how to involve authors in your book discussions, and Ms. Henriquez herself joined us for that part of the discussion.

So head over to the ARRT site where you will find a link to the notes of the book discussion and a separate link to the leadership training portion of the discussion with Ms. Henriquez.

The notes are in a manner similar to the way I did them for the BPL group. It simply requires a click or two to get at them now.

***If you are finding this post more than a few months after its initial publication [July 2015], please use this link to access our archive.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Becky’s Favorite Resources: All Readers.com for Frank Sex and Violence Info

With yesterdays post about the NPR Top 100 Romances I thought today was a good time for me to bring up my favorite site to find  frank discussions about the specific types and level of sex and violence in a book-- All Readers.com.

All Readers is not a pretty site; in fact it is fairly cumbersome and awkward, but it is THE ONLY place where you will find this information-- information readers care deeply about. And, even more importantly, they do not hold anything back..

Let me give you some examples.

All of the All Readers reviews include a analysis chart.  For each example, click and then scroll down to the chart.

Here is your example of sex level comparison of two best selling romance authors from opposite ends of the spectrum:

Here is your example of violence level comparison of two best selling crime authors from opposite ends of the spectrum:

Compare the difference in their sex and violence levels for yourself. All Readers does a great job of really telling you what to expect. With honest lines like: "generic/vague references to death/punishment vs "very gorey references to deaths/dead bodies and torture, [not to mention how frank they get about the sexual references], All Readers leaves nothing to the imagination.

Since we cannot read every book, this is a great way for the librarian to know what the reader can expect. It takes the awkwardness out of the RA conversation. Anytime there is a issue about sex and violence levels in a given title, I simply print the review from this resource and give it to the patron to decide for him or herself. Everyone wins!

Thats why All Readers.com is a Becky Favorite.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

NPR Books Release Top 100 Summer of Love Romance List and More...

Back in June I alerted you to the NPR Books Summer of Love romance poll and the many RA opportunities it created.  Well today they released the results of that poll here. From that post:
"As we get into the hottest, most languorous months of the year, it's the perfect moment for a hot read — and just in time, our big summer book list is here. It's the NPR Books Summer of Love, and we have 100 great romances for you, from historical to paranormal to LGBTQ to the subgenre that started it all, category romance
Back in June we asked you to tell us about your favorite romantic reads, and you responded in droves. (We had to shut the poll down early after more than 18,000 nominations flooded in!) Once the votes were tallied, we turned to our expert panel, reviewers Bobbi Dumas and Sarah Wendell, and authors Sherry Thomas and Michelle Monkou, to help us break down the categories and shape the final list into a love story for the ages. 
"It is my sincere hope and belief that readers new to the romance genre can pick up any recommended title on the list and find an interesting, affecting and satisfying read," says Thomas. We hope new readers and longtime fans alike will find a happily ever after here — but if we've left out one of your favorites, please tell us about it in the comments!"
Click here for the full list. There truly is a great romance read for every reader.

Save this list to help you all the year through! I think you should especially save it to reuse for Valentine’s Day this year.  See how I help you? Now you are already set for February! Seriously though, a great list like this is not only useful when it comes out.  I addressed this issue in more detail in that post from last month.

Also, I am very impressed with the inclusion of this article as part of today’s list release-- “Heartbreakers: Why Some Books Didn’t Make The Final List.

Making lists of the best of anything is hard.  People love what they love and they are upset when their favorites are left out. Me, I am glad that people  et so worked up about books that they love, but as someone who frequently makes book lists, I understand that best lists have rules and parameters.  I am so happy NPR had strict guidelines, clearly listed them here, and stood by these rules  even when it meant excluding a book they wanted to include themselves. I try to do the same when I make a list.

But most importantly, I am glad they acknowledged, upfront, that this list will not make everyone happy. That is important for all of us who work with leisure readers to remember.  Always acknowledge how personal “a good book” is. The reason it is great for one person, can also be a reason someone else hates it.  This is at the heart of what we do as readers’ advisors and it is often the toughest hurdle to get over as we work with patrons. This NPR example of being upfront about how hard it was to leave some books off the list AND kindly offering opportunities for people to include their own favorites in a supportive manner (i.e. not mean and troll-like) should be a model to us all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Very Detailed Analysis of American Book Clubs by BookBrowse

Today I would like to share with you an email I received from BookBrowse about their new report on Book Clubs in the USA.  I am still going through the report myself, but there is quite a lot of useful information here, especially for libraries that run book clubs.

I hope this helps you to serve your book clubs better.  I will be incorporating some of this data in my updated Re-Charge Your Book Club presentations scheduled for this coming Fall

Here’s the info directly from BookBrowse:
Based on recent research, in-depth interviews and extensive experience, BookBrowse's just published white paper provides an intriguing and insightful look at Book Clubs. 
Download it for free at bookbrowse.com/wp
(this link takes you straight to the download, no form to fill in)
Find out: 
  • The two life stages when book club participation increases
  • How many belong to book clubs, both in-person and online
  • The five key attributes book clubs look for when choosing books
  • The importance of libraries  
  • How many books book clubbers borrow 
  • What men in book clubs think
  • What men interested in joining a book club want 
  • How many Friends of the Library members are in a book club 
This white paper also contains links to advice on how to start and run a book club, and interviews with a wide variety of book clubs, with a particular focus on clubs that meet in libraries and have a mix of men and women. 
Please share you comments or questions with Davina Morgan-Witts the Founder & Publisher of BookBrowse 
Direct 408-867-6500 | Toll Free 1800-745-5306

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Next Crime Fiction Genre Study Assignment and General Comments on Running a Genre Study

I am finding it hard to believe that the ARRT 2014-2015 Crime Fiction Genre Study is winding down.  As I mentioned here, I hosted our last fiction genre discussion on psychological suspense.

And in less than 2 weeks, we will all gather together to have Magan lead us through True Crime.  Click here for the details on location, time and assignment.

The imminent arrival of that meeting date meant I needed to get my butt in gear and make the assignment for our penultimate meeting in October when we will discuss Special Interests and Formats: Audio, Graphic Novels, Multicultural, and YA Crime. 

Phew that is a mouthful.  Here is the link with all of the details.

Which only leaves our wrap-up meeting in December left to go.

I know there are many people out there who have followed this genre study and many of the past ones ARRT has done, using them as a guide for their own forays into the world of genre study.  Our official position at ARRT is that you are free to use our assignments and even our notes [if you are a member yourself] as long as you give credit to ARRT as the creators of the material.

The work that goes into preparing the assignments and running each of our genre studies is truly the work of the entire ARRT Steering Committee. As a group, ARRT has been running successful, collaborative, and useful genre studies for over 2 decades. It takes planning and teamwork. We love to share our successes, but please don’t steal our stuff without acknowledging those of us who work so hard to make it happen. We may make it look easy to pull off, but it takes many people to make the genre study happen each year, let alone the number of people who have made it possible over decades!

And we are not kidding about wanting to share our success.  As mentioned in this post, ARRT is coming to the Illinois Library Association Conference in October to teach you much of what we know about running genre studies.  On Saturday morning, 10/24/15, I will be presenting the following program for ARRT:
Genre Study Success!: Working Together to Help Leisure Readers  
The Adult Reading Round Table [ARRT], the country’s oldest group dedicated to developing readers advisory skills and promoting leisure reading, has been using the genre study as a training program for more than twenty years. This year, ARRT wants to share their success. Genre studies are a great way for librarians at any library that serves leisure readers at any age level to work together to improve their skills. At their essence, genre studies are group-centered discussions about categories of popular reading. Participants engage in a shared reading experience, compare reactions, and discuss both the books they have read and how patrons interact with the genre. As the actual study itself can take many forms, ARRT will walk you through the process of crafting a genre study model that works best for your needs, sharing their time tested tips and tricks to insure success for you, your staff, and, most importantly, your readers.
This program will help workers from any library where there are leisure reading patrons-- public, school, and even some academic.

This is your chance to see what it takes to embark upon a genre study [from a single meeting to a multi-year study] and ask us questions.  Other members of the ARRT Steering Committee will be in the audience to help tackle those questions both during the presentation and after.

Click here for more details about the ILA Conference and here for more information about ARRT.

Of course, I am also willing to answer any questions you have.  Contact info here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Collection Development: Beyond the Basics

Rebecca Vnuk, Editor, Reference and Collection Management for Booklist gave a presentation for Reaching Across Illinois Library System [RAILS] entitled "Collection Development: Beyond the Basics" and the video recording is now available.

From the video description:
Collection development basics for libraries, including discussion on organizing your budget, weeding, and writing a plan. Also discusses current topics such as media and eBooks. 
This workshop is the second in a series brought to you by RAILS and Booklist titled "RA and More: Practical Advice for Public and School Librarians. 
Click here or on the embedded video below.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Library Aware Training

So today, I learned how to use my Library Aware account to help me train you on how to better promote books.

I am still playing around with it, but below is an example of 4 shelf talkers with 2 newer titles and 2 backlist options that I created in a matter of minutes.  If you use this link, you can pull the sheet up in its own tab. That will also allow you to click on the book covers or titles to link to my full reviews here on RA for All.

There are many things I will be able to do with this product going forward. And, if I am doing a training for you or your organization, I will show you how Library Aware can help you make slick marketing materials with just a few clicks (their annotations included)

Click here to see the sheet on its own page with links to full reviews

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sharknado Readalikes

So tomorrow when everyone who comes into the library is talking about Sharknado, how are you going to turn the conversation back around to books they would also love?

Don't worry. I have you covered.

Click here to go over to the horror blog for all of my "comic" horror posts.  And bonus if you own my book because I have an entire chapter of comic horror annotations that would work perfectly.

I also have created this reading map for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter which is also a great readalike, and the map includes many more suggestions.

You will impress your patrons with your book expertise by having these readalikes ready, whether or not they actually check them out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More RA for All News: Booklist Reviews, RAILS Webinars, and Brand New In-Service Day

Well, remember when I said I would have more news about my future plans, well some of the pieces are starting to fall into place.

First, I have been assigned my first 3 reviews for Booklist. So you will be seeing more of what I think there coming soon. If you want to know what books they are, check out my widget in the right gutter. The not yet released books are the ones I am reviewing (except for Fates and Furies, that one was already reviewed, but I still wanted to read it). What do I think? You will have to wait for the magazine to find that out.

I have also finalized a series of monthly RA related classes from September through December with RAILS.  All will be free to RAILS member library staff. I have also given permission for everything to be recorded in case you cannot make it.

Here are the class descriptions.  More details will begin appearing on the RAILS CE site soon:
Re-Charge Your Book Club: Webinar, 9/14/15 at 10amReader’s advisor Becky Spratford has been leading  book clubs for over 14 years and has seen it all. In this webcast she will share her tips and tricks for success. All book groups go through their ups and downs, but re-energizing your group is not as hard as it may seem. Becky will walk you through how to confidently identify and utilize the best resources for leading a book discussion, pick books that will engender the best conversations, lead a more interactive discussion even with the most jaded of groups. Let her show you how to take control, shake things up, and rediscover why you started the group in the first place. 
Book Discussion for Book Discussion Leaders: In-person, 10/6/15 at 2pmLeading a book discussion group is one of the most personally and professionally rewarding things we do at work; however, it is an extremely challenging job too. No one understands this better than Becky Spratford who has been leading book discussions groups for over 14 years.  Join her, and a room full of your book discussion colleagues, as we discuss the creepy, historical novel, THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon. This program will give you the chance to sit back and enjoy being a discussion participant while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This training pairs nicely with Re-Charge Your Book Club being presented in September, but it is not a requirement that you attend both sessions. 
Demystifying Genre: How To Help Every Type of Reader: Webinar, 11/9/15 at 10amNothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because...eek!... you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you how to keep your genre knowledge up to date, explain the biggest trends in genre fiction, and share her time tested tricks for working with genre readers. You will leave this webinar with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether you have ever read a book in that genre. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake. 
RA for All: The School Library Edition: Webinar, 12/1/15 at 4pmInternational Readers’ Advisory expert Becky Spratford has spent over 15 years serving leisure readers aged 13 and up through local public libraries; however, over the last 7 years she also has volunteered with her local elementary school experimenting with the implementation of public library RA technics in a school library setting. Join Becky for this 90 minute webinar where she shares her successes (and even a few failures), discussing how you can maximize your opportunities for promoting leisure reading. Sometimes it takes an “outside the box” approach to help our students develop a love of reading, but together we can help children feel the life-changing power of finding the perfect “fun” book-- a power that can turn them into life-long readers and learners.  And isn’t that why we go into this profession in the first place?

And my last announcement is also an advertisement.  I am in the process of creating a brand new, fun and interactive 8 hour in-service day program that will be great for all levels of RA at your public library.  I will be doing it for the first time at the City of Camarillo Public Library [CA] in August.

But if you want to get in on this crowd pleasing and extremely useful public library staff training you need to contact me now.  My Fall is already filling up, but I am taking bookings from mid-September through May of 2016 right now. Believe it or not, I have one May program already in the works. Contact me for prices

The best news if that all of this is just a start. There are still exciting things that have not been completely finalized yet. And like the information I have shared above, all of my plans are geared toward allowing me to reach as many of you as possible.

All of you out there working in the trenches with readers deserve the best RA training possible all year long (not just those of you lucky enough to go to conferences). The better your training, the more confident you are, but more importantly, the happier your patrons are. 

This is why I left my library job because there is a need out there for someone to provide RA training in a fun and useful manner. So, as one of the country’s RA experts, I stopped complaining that there was no good training, and decided to take it upon myself to provide it. I realize not everyone can make the leap that I did, but for me it was a fortuitous coming together of timing and desire. [I have had the desire to do this for awhile, but until recently, the timing was wrong.]

So this is only the beginning. My goal by next Fall is to have reached as many of you as possible.  But I need your help to make this happen. Contact me and we can figure something out. Or contact your library system and have them contact me.  I have worked with IL, MA, and ME on multiple months contracts to improve the RA skills of their states' library workers in an efficient way.  [Remember, I am also a Public Library Trustee, so I totally get the cost issues.]

And if nothing else, this blog will be here to help you, always.

Now get out there and help someone to find their next good read.

Monday, July 20, 2015

ARRT Crime Fiction Genre Study Psychological Suspense Notes Available-- Now with Venn Diagrams

Here is your semi-regular reminder that I am leading the now almost complete ARRT Crime Fiction Genre Study and we have a website with lots of great info whether you are a member or not.

Last meeting we tackled Psychological Suspense.  Here is the assignment we used to frame the discussion.

The notes are now ready, but the notes are for members only.  Here is the link to the notes page.  Members will also receive an email with a reminder of the password.

However, I am sharing something from our discussion with all of my readers today because it is part of the discussion that I created ahead of time. Since it is not a product of the discussion, it is fair game.

I made a Venn Diagram by hand and posted it on the wall.  Our fabulous notetaker Karen recreated it digitally for the notes.  I have included that immediately below:

This diagram was offered up as part of our discussion wrapping up Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense and moving on to Psychological Suspense. I created it to try explain each genre’s place in the overall Crime category since this was the last time we would be discussing a single fiction genre. [Again, consult our 2 year schedule for details.]

My point that day was that Psychological Suspense was the least “crime” like of the genres, but that there was still a small slice where the appeals overlapped, especially for Suspense readers. Hence the diagram.

We had a great discussion where people were honest about their own preferences for and against Psychological Suspense.  By making this discussion down a bit more of a personal reading tastes road, I felt like we were really able to get to the heart of the appeal of all Crime Fiction for a wide range of readers.  It also made me happy to have dedicated all of this time to leading the study [without even taking into account all that I have personally gained and learned by being a part of it].

But that’s enough looking back.  Now it is time to move on to our next meeting-- True Crime on August 6th at Glenview. Details including location, time and assignment are here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Romance Reads For Wedding Season

Later this afternoon I will be attending my cousin’s wedding. This is my second wedding this spring/summer and I am not a spring chicken.  My younger cousins (who I will see at the wedding) have a dozen between this summer and last.

So I have weddings on the mind and limited time, which translates into a Romance themed post for you today.

It’s simple.  Click here to read every post tagged Romance. And click here for a few wedding specific posts (including reviews of books that feature weddings but are NOT Romances).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Book On Weeding

Readers of this blog know that I am a huge proponent of the importance of weeding as a part of your basic RA services. You can click here to see my many posts that deal with weeding, but the most succinct one that lays out my philosophy of why weeding is important as part of your overall work with leisure readers is here.

But enough about me, the real expert out there on Weeding is Rebecca Vnuk. Don’t know who Rebecca is? Thats seems improbable, but here is the official author bio from her new book on weeding:
Rebecca Vnuk has a high profile in the library community as a librarian, consultant, workshop presenter, speaker, writer, and blogger. She is currently best known as Editor, Reference and Collection Management, at Booklist, and as the co-creator of the popular blog Shelf Renewal. Her most recent library position was as Adult Services Director at the Glen Ellyn (IL) Public Library. She has been widely recognized for her contributions to the field. In 2008, she was Library Journal’s Fiction Reviewer of the Year, and in 2010 she received the Public Library Association’s Allie Beth Martin Award for excellence in Readers’ Advisory and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker. She is the author of Read On . . . Women’s Fiction (2009) and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009), and co-author (with Nanette Donohue) of Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2013). She has spoken at conferences and presented workshops extensively; her panels are among the most popular at ALA Annual and Public Library Association meetings.
Yes I said new book. The cover is above. And here is the link where you can read all of the details. From that page:
“No! We can’t rid of that!” Vnuk, author of the popular “Weeding Tips” column on Booklist Online, is here to show you that yes, you can. A library is an ever-changing organism; when done the right way, weeding helps a library thrive by focusing its resources on those parts of the collection that are the most useful to its users. Her handbook takes the guesswork out of this delicate but necessary process, giving public and school library staff the knowledge and the confidence to effectively weed any collection, of any size. Going through the proverbial stacks shelf by shelf, Vnuk
  • Explains why weeding is important for a healthy library, demonstrating that a vibrant collection leads to robust circulation, which in turn affects library budgets
  • Walks readers through a library’s shelves by Dewey area, with recommended weeding criteria and call-outs in each area for the different considerations of large collections and smaller collections
  • Features a chapter addressing reference, media, magazines and newspapers, e-books, and other special materials
  • Shows how a solid collection development plan uses weeding as an ongoing process, making it less stressful and more productive
  • Offers guidance for determining how to delegate responsibility for weeding, plus pointers for getting experienced staff on board
  • Gives advice for educating the community about the process, how to head off PR disasters, and what to do with weeded materials
  • Includes a dozen sample collection development plans, easily adaptable to suit a library’s individual needs
Filled with field-tested, no nonsense strategies, this handbook will enable libraries to bloom by maintaining a collection that users actually use.

Buying this book is money well spent as it will save you time and money AND will result in happier patrons.

If nothing else though, please don’t forget how important weeding is toward your overall goal to provide exemplary service to your patrons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Booktalking Examples

One of my favorite new training programs that I have been offering is entitled “Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Readers.”

The point of this talk is to re-energize library workers, tapping into their love of books and showing everyone how easy it is to start a book talking habit.  Everyone wins- staff and patrons- when people share books at the library.

I always end this presentation with a book talk to serve as an example, normally of horror books because that’s my speciality, but people need more examples of themed books talks. The more varied the examples-- varied by type of book, person presenting, and their style-- the better you will all get at this art.

One of the groups I have done this talk for recently is the Massachusetts Library System [MLS]. Click here for that presentation.

On their extensive website of RA resources (compiled by, among others, my awesome friend and colleague Kristi Chadwick), MLS has an archive of book talks called 5 in 15. From the page:
In the newest addition to the Massachusetts Library System’s Readers’ Advisory lineup, starting today and on the 15th of every month, we will release a 15 minute booktalk to help you build your repertoire of recommended books. Each booktalk video will revolve around a theme and will be available on the MLS RA LibGuide. Plus if you want your titles to go – each one will be available as a podcast. Download and listen to them on the road!  
Each month we will deliver to you librarians covering five titles (front list and back list) that revolve around one central theme. What about you? Have you read 5 books?  We would love to feature YOU and your recommendations in a 5 in 15 booktalk, too! 
I have 2 RA training pleas today in relation to book talking. First, listen to some of these book talks so that you can see what it is all about.  I dare you to NOT be inspired by listening to a fellow librarian share 5 books he or she is passionate about. And second, take Kristi up on her offer above and create your own book talk of 5 books in 15 minutes to share with her, your colleagues, and your patrons.

The more books that are shared, the better off we all are.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

While You Wait for Go Set a Watchman: How to Turn an Event Book Into Opportunity

I know you know that Go Set a Watchman came out today.  I also know most of you had already prepared “While you wait” lists of alternatives for the influx of patrons who will be coming in to request it-- many them coming to the library for the first time in years.

But I also know that when this HUGE single book events happen, you can never have enough readalike options.

You also want to make sure you have options for every kind of reader.  Remember, a book like this brings people out of the woodwork.  People who haven’t been to the library in a long time. They do not realize there will be a wait list.

We need to use event book opportunities like this one to show off our awesome services.

Harper Lee brought em in the building, now it is our job to show off our skills and promote those books which are on the shelf right now.

With bestsellers, you cannot only have exact readalikes [if there is such a thing] ready.  Your instinct will be to have other southern set titles with Civil Rights themes ready to hand out automatically each time someone asks to be placed on the waiting list.  And while, for example, The Help is a great readalike suggestion, there are many readers who only want Go Set a Watchman for this type of read, when actually they generally prefer a completely different type of book normally.

This is where you can shine and turn these newbie library users into lifelong believers. You can make them see the light and turn into library evangelists, spreading the word of your amazing skills all over town.

[I used bold, but I am not exaggerating. This has worked for me. I have made this happen multiple times.]

First, make sure the patron in front of you asking to be put on hold for the Lee book wants to read something just like it while they wait. Instead of offering a readalike immediately, try saying something like, “We have lots of great reads on the shelf right now. What kind of book do you want to read while you wait? I am sure we can find you something that will make the time pass quickly.”

This is how we at the library turn a publishing event into a chance for us to market ourselves and our book expertise. We hand them a much better option for them, tailored to their specific preferences, and they LOVE it. They think we worked magic when all we did was have the RA conversation with them. Success!

So by all means, have the very specifically matched readalike suggestions lists for Go Set a Watchman out for people.  But the patrons that stop and ask for help...to those patrons, please engaging them in a conversation about what they like to read (in general) and use all that you have learned by reading this blog and attending my trainings over the years to find these patrons the perfect read for them- whether or not it shares anything in common with the book they came in to reserve.

To help you start thinking outside the box, I will give you a few Southern Gothic options with a coming of age theme. BY the way, these would be great for the people who you haven’t seen since Gone Girl came out. Click on the titles for a full review of each.

Now go out there are show off your mad RA skills! I know you can do it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What I'm Reading: Annihilation

This weekend, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer won my favorite book award, The Shirley Jackson Award. It has also won the prestigious Nebula and was a huge hit on this year’s Tournament of Books [among many other deserved accolades].

Here is the Becky soundbite review for this genre defying book: “Four female scientists set out on the 12th expedition to explore the undefined and possibly expanding Area X, in the swampy southern reaches of the US. The previous 11 expeditions have failed, leaving no survivors. Our unreliable narrator, the biologist, leads us through this compelling, menacing and unsettling story that ranges in tone from adventurous, to weird, finally moving into the grotesque. But, I dare you to stop thinking about this book after you close its final page.”

Again, I write these 30 seconds or less soundbites to hit at enough of the major appeal for you to use at work. You can use this as you are hand-selling books to patrons. It gives the patron a feel of the story with carefully selected strong words that will let the patron [and therefore you the librarian helping them to find their next good read] know right away if this is a book they want to look at more closely. If you use them in print, please cite this post.

Here those strong words- the key appeal terms-- have been bolded for you above.

I am really trying to make my reviews more useful as you help readers in the library.  I have included the link to the Goodreads entry- complete with summary info- in the first line. You don’t need me to recap. You need me to help you to market the book to its best reader. And traditional reviews talk more about the quality of the book. I am trying to help you understand the type of reader it is best for.

Now let me talk about this novel as a reading experience. Why? Because reading Annihilation was unlike any reading experience I have has in a long while-- in a good way.  This book consumed me much like the expeditions consumed their participants. I inhaled this book in one sitting on an airplane ride from Chicago to Honolulu back in March.  It was the perfect length, it’s only in paperback, and the writing style and pacing lends itself to being read in 1 big chunk (or at the very least 2 slightly smaller) ones.

The set up is intriguing and compelling. You want to read to see what happens to this specific expedition.  Will they make it? What will they find? What has heaped to the others? You are holding your breath from the start.  But then there is a surprise beyond the plot, and it is the writing itself. The language gets more beautiful and intricate the weirder and more grotesque the story gets. That was also a very cool experience. It adds to the squirm factor here. [Although to be fair, I did give this book to a patron who I thought would love it, but not being a reader for language, she felt it had “too many words.”]

In the process this novel that started as an adventure, morphed into something more [italics intentional, but you have to read the novel to see why]. It becomes a story about the biologist and her inner psyche. It also becomes a story about the power of nature and what it means to be a scientist.  And it becomes a cautionary tale about life itself.

This novel is the perfect example of how great storytelling trumps “genre” labels.  Is this science fiction? Horror? Dystopian? Psychological Suspense? Scientific Thriller? Literary Fiction?

Who cares? It’s a great, unclassifiable story.  It has a bit of all of those in it. It is also the epitome of what the very best fiction is today. I wrote about that in more detail last moth here.

One final point about Annihilation is that it is Book 1 in The Southern Reach trilogy. These books were all released last year, in a row,  all in paperback, but it is a series that does not require you to read all 3.  The other 2 books are based in the world of Area X but from different angles.  Many will be happy with just this first one. Others will want all three. The choice is nice to have. If you do read more than 1, please read them in Vandermeer’s preferred order, however.

Three Words That Describe This Book: unreliable narrator, menacing, thought provoking

Readalikes: Interestingly, I thought of 2 authors as readalikes immediately and was only slightly surprised to see that they were both also finalists with Annihilation for this year’s Shirley Jackson Award.:

  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman which I love, love, love. The two novels are strikingly similar in their feel and overall appeal. Click on the title for details.
  • Lauren Beukes who was nominated for Broken Monsters and for whose The Shining Girls I still have to write a review. [Preview of my thoughts: it was the best, most original serial killer book I have ever read.]

Which leads me to an excellent point, one of my favorite RA suggestion tools is to find an award list that works for a specific reader.  Here is my popular post on how to use awards list as a RA tool.

I am currently doing this with a former patron (still working for her via text even though I left the library) using the Mary Higgins Clark award list.  And here is a post about my general love for The Shirley Jackson Award.

If you like how this is an unclassifiable novel with many genre fiction tendencies, a thought provoking plot, but no specific genre to call home you should definitely read Zone One by Colson Whitehead.

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman is a backlist “weird” title that can also be inhaled in 1 sitting.  Here is my review of that title with more readalikes. Thinking back on it, the Zelserman novel shares a lot of similarities with Annihilation in storytelling style, and tone, but mostly in how such an odd story completely traps you into its world.

Finally, in their Weird Fiction Review, the Vandermeers are constantly suggesting “weird” authors.  I would suggest going there to get some more ideas of unique, dark storytellers. Here is a post from back in 2011 when I talked about this site; it includes an interview about what “Weird Fiction” is with Neil Gaiman.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Time to Register for ILA-- Post Includes RA for All and ARRT News

So much ARRT and ILA news today-- some of it I have been dying to share but was waiting patiently for today, and some of it is still not ready to pass on yet.  Too much awesome library stuff.

Let me start at the beginning...

Last year I was on the Illinois Library Association’s Conference Planning Committee. [You can click here to read more about that.] It was a great experience, I met librarians from all over the state who work in all types of libraries, and I got to see how a conference is put together from start to finish.

As part of the 2014 committee, I also got to see the very beginning of planning for the 2015 conference. Normally, this would be no big deal having just gone through the entire process, except for the fact that this year, 2015, all of the Illinois Library Associations have pulled together, for the very first time, to put on one giant state library conference!

From the conference website:

"The 2015 All for One Conference: A Library State of Mind brings together library organizations in Illinois for a chance to connect, network, and learn together. Academic, public, school, and special libraries will come together for the first combined annual conference of the Illinois Library Association and Illinois School Library Media Association, in collaboration with the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries and the Special Libraries Association Illinois Chapter. "
Okay, so first the RA for All conference related news... RA for All [aka- me] is a Silver Sponsor of the entire conference.  [Click here and scroll down the right gutter to see the proof that my check cleared.] Specifically, I will be sponsoring the much needed Saturday morning coffee for all attendees. This is the coffee which will be served the day after the Awards Gala [and its cash bar]. More on exactly what you can find from me besides coffee at the conference is one of the things I am not prepared to share yet-- but it is in the works.

Speaking of the awards gala, as I have mentioned before, this is the first year that ARRT is sponsoring the Readers’ Advisory Service Award to be given out at the gala. The winner will be announced sometime in August or September.  The awards gala costs $45 extra with your registration, but from what I hear, it is going to be great- dinner, dancing, and more. Plus we have a fun contingent of ARRT people planning to be there and celebrate our new award and it’s inaugural winner. I have already secured my spot.

ARRT is also behind another honoree at the gala, but that is also something you will have to wait to find out.  I promise though, it is news all of my readers, regardless of what state (or country) they live in, will be excited to learn.  

And finally for today, ARRT and I have teamed up to present the following conference program on Saturday morning:
Genre Study Success!: Working Together to Help Leisure Readers  
The Adult Reading Round Table [ARRT], the country’s oldest group dedicated to developing readers advisory skills and promoting leisure reading, has been using the genre study as a training program for more than twenty years. This year, ARRT wants to share their success. Genre studies are a great way for librarians at any library that serves leisure readers at any age level to work together to improve their skills. At their essence, genre studies are group-centered discussions about categories of popular reading. Participants engage in a shared reading experience, compare reactions, and discuss both the books they have read and how patrons interact with the genre. As the actual study itself can take many forms, ARRT will walk you through the process of crafting a genre study model that works best for your needs, sharing their time tested tips and tricks to insure success for you, your staff, and, most importantly, your readers.
This program will help workers from any library where there are leisure reading patrons-- public, school, and even some academic.

So, what are you all waiting for? Registration opened today.  Go sign up.  This is going to be a fantastic conference, a chance for all library workers, from all library types, to be together. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Library Reads: August 2015

Here is the newest list.  And here is your monthly reminder that you can pull up every Library Reads list for an easy scroll through all in a row in reverse chronological order using this link.  This is the only place I know of where you can get all the lists without a million clicks.

And why should you care? Because the older lists make for great sure bet backlist suggestions for your patrons.  You don’t even have to do the hand-selling work as the annotations from your fellow colleagues do the work for you.

August 2015 LibraryReads List


Best Boy: A Novel

by Eli Gottlieb

by Liveright
ISBN: 9781631490477
“What happens when someone on the autism spectrum grows up, and they aren’t a cute little boy anymore? Gottlieb’s novel follows the story of Todd Aaron, a man in his fifties who has spent most of his life a resident of the Payton Living Center. Todd begins to wonder what lies beyond the gates of his institution. A funny and deeply affecting work.”
Elizabeth Olesh, Baldwin Public Library, Baldwin, NY 
the nature of the beastblog

The Nature of the Beast:

A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

by Louise Penny

Published: 8/25/2015 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250022080
“Louise Penny set the bar high with her last two books, but she had no trouble clearing it with this one. All our old friends are back in Three Pines where a young boy with a compulsion to tell tall tales tells one true story with disastrous results. But which story is the truth and why is it so threatening? Exquisitely suspenseful, emotionally wrenching and thoroughly satisfying.”
Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY


A Window Opens: A Novel

by Elisabeth Egan

Published: 8/25/2015 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781501105432
“Alice Pearce has a pretty great life. She has a loving family and works part-time as an editor for a magazine. When her family’s financial situation takes a drastic turn, Alice finds that she needs to step up to the plate and contribute more, and she finds this comes at a cost. I think many women will see themselves in Alice’s character. I recommend this book to moms who need a little time to themselves; they might realize that maybe things aren’t so bad for them after all.”
Rosanna Johnson, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ 


The Marriage of Opposites: A Novel

by Alice Hoffman

Published: 8/4/2015 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781451693591
“Exquisite…Alice Hoffman’s finest work to date.  The Marriage of Opposites is a beautiful love story of a man and woman and a mother and child intricately woven together to capture the author’s true message: Love more, not less.
Marianne Colton, Lockport Public Library, Lockport, NY 

everybody riseblog

Everybody Rise: A Novel

by Stephanie Clifford

Published: 8/18/2015 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250077172
“Stephanie Clifford’s debut novel takes us into the world of NYC high society in 2006. Evelyn Beegan, who’s always been on the fringes of the smart set, meets It girl Camilla Rutherford, and her ambition and desire to belong get the best of her. Evelyn’s deceptive effort to keep pace with Camilla wreaks all kinds of havoc with her finances, her family, and her sense of self. With a sympathetic main character and a fascinating look into how the other half lives, this astute tale is irresistible.”
                                                                    Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ 


The Fall of Princes: A Novel

by Robert Goolrick

Published: 8/25/2015 by Algonquin
ISBN: 9781616204204
“I loved this novel about the rise and fall of a man in NYC during the 80s, when money was easy to make and easy to spend. What happens when you can get anything you want, and what does it really end up costing you? The story of the people working in the financial industry during that time is interwoven with the reality of AIDS, cocaine and the changes going on in society. So many sentences were so well-written that I found myself stopping to take them in and relish them.”
Jennifer Cook, Cheshire Public Library, Cheshire, CT 


In a Dark, Dark Wood: A Novel

by Ruth Ware

Published: 8/4/2015 by Gallery/Scout Press
ISBN: 9781501112317
“Leonora Shaw is a crime writer who lives a solitary life in London until she receives an invitation to a hen party for a friend she hasn’t seen in nearly ten years. The party takes place in a remote location with spotty phone service. Are you nervous yet? We know from the opening pages that something horrible happens, but just what, and to whom, how, and why will keep readers guessing — and flipping the pages. Recommended for fans of The Girl on the Train.”
  Vicki Nesting, St. Charles Parish Library, Destrehan, LA 


Black Eyed Susans: A Novel

by Julia Heaberlin
Published: 8/11/2015 by Ballantine Books
ISBN: 9780804177993

“In 1995, Tessie went out for a run, and she went missing. She was found eventually, a surviving victim of the Black-Eyed Susan serial killer. The supposed killer is in prison, yet Tessie is still being plagued by mysterious Black Eyed Susan flowers blooming where they shouldn’t. The viewpoint shifts between Tessie in the present day and teenage Tessie in 1995, and was quite clever. I think this novel will appeal to fans of Gone Girl.
Shannon Fukumoto, Kapolei Public Library Kapolei, HI 

lord of the wingsblog

Lord of the Wings:
A Meg Langslow Mystery

by Donna Andrews

Published: 8/4/2015 by Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250049582
“It’s Halloween in Caerphilly and the town has come up with another festival to bring in the tourists. Meg Langslow is heading up the “Goblin Patrol”, there’s trouble at the Haunted House, and body parts are being found at the zoo. Meg is once again called in to save the day and solve the crime. If you enjoy your mysteries packed with humor and fun, don’t miss this return to Caerphilly with Meg and her zany family and friends.”
Karen Emery, Johnson County Public Library, Franklin, IN 


A Year of Reading, Collecting,
and Living with Books

by Michael Dirda

Published: 8/15/2015 by Pegasus
ISBN: 9781605988443
“This collection of Dirda’s musings on writers, book collecting and the literary landscape is a must read for all bibliophiles. Michael Dirda won a Pulitzer for his work at the Washington Post and has been called “the best-read person in America”. I always learn something new when I read his work and this book is no exception. Great fun for all book nerds!”
Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Hilliard, OH