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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Display Idea for Hotly Anticipated Fall Releases

The big Fall releases are starting a week before Labor Day this year with Franzen’s Purity coming out tomorrow. In general, Fall is the time of year when the most blockbuster titles come out, especially those that will be up for major literary and/or genre prizes.

Often the problem libraries have in promoting the newest and hottest titles is that we only have a few copies of these books and they all have long holds’ queues.  So, we end up focusing on readalikes for the hottest titles, otherwise known as “While You Wait” lists.

But, some readers do not want readalikes for the current “it” books. They want that book.  In my experience, I have found that these readers are actually happier reading an older book by the author whose current book they came in for than they are simply getting a readalike for said book [even if the readalike is a better match than a previous book by the author].

In this case, the patron is more interested in reading something by the author everyone is talking about than they are in reading that exact book.  We need to remember that as we help people.  It is the same reason why some patrons will only read something if it is, or has been, on the bestseller list.

Book stores have the luxury of having scores of copies of these big releases stacked in piles waiting for people. At the library, we want to help readers who have come in because of the buzz around a hot new title, but we cannot ever hope to have enough copies to satisfy demand in those first few weeks. The problem is simply magnified by the heavy Fall release schedule.  

But, I have an idea that will help you to promote tall the big fall reads in a new way; a way that will win over these particular [and numerous] patrons.

First, click here and here to see some of the release lists for the most anticipated books of Fall.

Second, take those lists and cut and paste the titles you think will be most popular at your library into your own list. If you can make a poster sized list that would be great. Or, if you do 1/2 sheets with the cover of each upcoming title and post those somewhere.  Or, make a bookmark with the info. The key is to have a list you can make available for patrons in some eye catching way.

Third, pull the other books by the authors on the list you have created.  Try to get a mix of formats too [audio, LP, etc...]

Fourth, sit back and watch those backlist titles fly off the shelf and watch your patrons leave happy.

[I realize that this display idea leaves out the chance to highlight debut authors, but that cannot be helped in this example.]

What you get from this simple display idea is a two sided victory for your RA services. One, you have let your patrons know that you have the hot fall books, even though they are not on the self right now, and two, they leave with a book by one of this Fall’s hottest authors in their hands. It might not be the exact book they wanted, but they are still “in the know,” reading the hot author of the moment. 

Plus, you look brilliant.

You have anticipated their requests.

You have made it clear that you know about the book they want, own it, and have an option while they wait for their turn on the holds list.

And, you promoted your awesome backlist, reminding them of all of the great reads available throughout the library beyond those on the new shelf.

Everybody wins! 

I like when that happens at the library.

Friday, August 28, 2015

NoveList RA News: Nonfiction Edition

Here is the link to the September 2015 NoveList RA News, as it says in the title, with articles all about Nonfiction RA.

While I encourage you to read the entire issue, there is one article in particular that I not only enjoyed, but, you can use it immediately to help readers- Audrey Barbakoff's article on nonfiction readalikes for fiction bestsellers.

Here are three samples from the list:
If you like… The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsTry… Paris Views by Gail Albert HalabanWhat is so compelling about The Girl on the Train -- even more than the murder plot or the quick pacing -- is the protagonist's universal experience of imagining lives for the strangers she sees through the window. Halaban's book of photography gives viewers a captivating literal look into the windows of strangers in their homes.  Through Halaban's photos the viewer becomes like Hawkins' unreliable narrator, questioning the meaning and reality of what we do and do not see through the window.
If you like… All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrTry… Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind by Sarah WildmanIn Doerr's tender yet gripping story, World War II forever alters the lives of a blind girl in occupied France and a well-meaning German boy with a talent for math.  In Paper Love, Wildman discovers a long-hidden set of letters from her grandfather's first love, who was trapped in Europe during the Holocaust.  Both stories are suspenseful, yet fundamentally about complex characters and relationships struggling to endure in a time of war. 
If you like… Grey by E.L. JamesTry… The Secret Life of a Submissive: A True Story by Sarah K.The newest installment in James' erotic BDSM 50 Shades of Grey series isn't the only steamy read on the shelves. This memoir's anonymous author was a newly divorced, middle aged empty-nester when she discovered her hidden passion for bondage.  Her relationship with her first "dom" contains both ample explicit sex scenes and an interesting peek into one real-life dominant/submissive relationship. 
As you can see, she includes a wide range of bestsellers from thriller to literary, to E.L. James.  There are many more suggestion if you click here, and they are for many of the current hottest books.

Read the entire article. Heck, print it out and leave it at the desk. I am pretty sure you will be consulting it more than once this weekend as you work with readers. Right after I finishing posting this, I am going to put 2 of these books on hold, 1 for myself, and 1 for my neighbor.

And even if you never use one of Audrey's suggestions please keep the spirit of her article in mind as you help readers. There might be a perfect readalike for that fiction bestseller hiding in the nonfiction stacks.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RA for All Roadshow: RA Prescription

Today I am at RAILS doing a joint presentation with Booklist and NoveList.  The recording and slides will be available to everyone who can read this in the next issue of Corner Shelf- landing 9/14 to your email box. [Free sign-up for the newsletter is here]

But in the meantime, if you were at today’s presentation and want to get started using some of the assessment links, here they are.

To run the Novelist RA Diagnosis for your library, click here.

To run my Staff Reader Profile Assessment [and for reasons why you should] click here.

Interactive RA: Featuring a List of Fun SF and FSY Books Via io9

I am loving a current discussion on the SF/FSY site io9 so much that I wanted to share it with all of you.

They asked readers to share “Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn’t Stand It?

There are currently over 400 responses!

Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?
If you use this picture in your display
please use this credit.
How does this help you, the RA librarian? Well let’s start with the most obvious-- this post is an easy display; the book list is there in the comments and you can use their awesome graphic (with credit).

Also, I love the title. You don't normally see the word "fun" used to describe SF and FSY, but it can be so much fun as the large and positive responses illustrate.

Speaking of positive responses, in general, I actively advocate for using five star and one star reviews of books as a way to see what patrons actually think about a book.  No they are not your patrons, but they are someone's patrons; they are actual readers sharing their honest reactions to a book. But I also know that there are a lot of negative and mean spirited people on the Internet leaving nasty comments. However, io9 has created such a fun discussion, and they have worked hard to cultivate a model Internet community over the years, where there is more respect than not, that overall, you will see mostly a positive discussion focusing on the "fun" here.  It is a wonderful example of framing an internet discussion question in a way that encourages positivity.

Which leads me to my final, and main point of this post. This question: "Which Science Fiction or Fantasy Book Was So Much Fun You Couldn't Stand It?"begs for you to answer it.  It feeds off of readers' enthusiasm for the books they love. It is a question people feel a NEED to answer.

Social media and fan community's like io9 put forth questions like this a lot. People answer in droves. So why aren't we doing this in our library buildings? Yes, many libraries post or retweet these links to encourage conversation in the virtual world, but very few library's try to have this kind of interactive RA action in their buildings.

Why not?

We want to focus on being the place where the community discovers new books. We want to be a place that people think is fun to come to.  We are focusing on things like maker spaces and digital media labs to make us look relevant.  I am all for these things too, but once they are here for the "new," we also need to remind them how relevant we are when it comes to our main business-- reading!

So I suggest a new interactive RA idea as inspired by io9's discussion. Why can't we post questions like this in our buildings and online?

Try it.  Every 2 weeks have a library question.  Yes post it on your various social media places, but also at every service desk. Post the question with slips of paper and a box to drop answers in AND offer the info about posting it to Facebook or create a hashtag for Twitter.  For example, my local library's initials are LGPL; they could use #LGPLAsks.

When you ask at the Adult, AV, Circ, Youth, Teen, etc... all of the different desks, you get a range of answers, you encourage the entire library using public to participate, and, most importantly, you start a conversation about reading. By posting it online too, you let the rest of your community know that you care about what they like. And, by getting the staff from across the entire building involved you spread the work of coming up with the questions around to a larger pool of people AND you have created a cross library team building exercise as a result. [Win, Win]

These questions can be about any leisure mediums, and should be. Ask about TV shows, movies, audiobooks, etc... as well. You can take your cue from other online polls or discussions as long as you give them credit for the idea.

The point here is, you are starting the RA conversation with your patrons at their comfort level. They can talk to you about their answer, leave a slip in a box, or simply interact with you digitally. But the conversation has begun. You have asked for their opinion on their leisure "reading," and have given them a choice in how to respond.

And as I have found, once you make a connection with a patron through RA service, they start to come back for more.

This post doesn't even consider the massive amount of data you can collect about your community's reading and viewing habits by engaging in this activity. [That line is for the administrator who doesn't want you clogging up desk space with questions and answer boxes-- these are worth it for collection development.]

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School Reads for Grownups

Let’s talk about back to school displays and lists for your adult leisure readers. Yes I said adult leisure readers.

Look, we spend a lot of time at the public library promoting back to school. This makes sense as it is one of our core services. But as a grown-up who gets a bit nostalgic for my school days as I send my kids back to school, I know I would appreciate a back to school inspired list for me. I know I am not alone.

But rather than simply putting up a display of books with an academic setting, what about reads that capture adults' nostalgia for school days and/or leisure reading titles that speak to our desire to learn new things?

Here are some lists to inspire you to make a back to school display for the grownups. Then you can sit back and watch the books fly off the shelf.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I’m Reading: The Shining Girls

As promised yesterday, I am catching up on reviews this week [after a summer of slacking on that front].

Back in March I read The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Here is my 30 sec or less conversation starter for this novel:

Soundbite Review: This is the best serial killer book I have ever read. Set in Chicago, it has 2 main narrators and a fluid time frame.  The first narrator is a young woman in the 1990s, the only survivor of a never caught serial killer as she is searching for her attacker.  The second narrator is that serial killer, a man whose present is the 1930s, but who lives in a home on the South Side, a home that is a portal to other times.  Although this may sound confusing, Beukes does an excellent job of letting the reader know where you are in time and space at all moments.  Plus, as the action heats up, the time travel increases, making the story even more suspenseful. This was a satisfying and exciting novel by an author to keep an eye on.

Let me elaborate a bit more on the specific appeal of this book. It is obviously intricately plotted as the above soundbite review mentions, but the layering of time frames and storyline adds to the enjoyment of the mystery here.  Clues emerge in an order that is more satisfying as a reader than a straight timeline would allow. This also keeps the plot moving much quicker than it could have.

On the other hand, while I enjoyed this aspect, I know of many readers who will be upset by the messed up timeline and not enjoy the book for this reason. So when booktalking this backlist title, sharing the time travel is key.

The Shining Girls is also intensely suspenseful, almost painfully so.  Even though we know who the killer is, we are helpless to watch traditional police and investigative reporters [rightfully] fail to consider a time travel solution. We observe young women die at an evil killer’s hand.

And character wise, because we have the 2 narrators, both our heroine and the villain are well developed. We see their motivations and clearly understand where they are coming from.  In true psychological suspense fashion, both are very flawed. and meant to be observed by readers. Specifically our heroine, Kirby, is very strong but very damaged, making her sympathetic only up to a point.

This is a great book for psychological suspense fans who also enjoy horror. It is not for lighter psychological suspense fans like those of Girl on a Train.  The Shining Girls is violent, heart wrenching, and intense, but if you like that sort of thing [like me], you are in for quite a treat.

Three Words That Describe This Book: multiple time lines, psychological suspense, dread

Readalikes: As I was reading The Shining Girls I kept thinking about how similar it was to Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Here is the link to my full detailed review of Dark Places, but quickly, both are dark, violent, and intricately plotted psychological suspense novels.  Also while Dark Places is not speculative in anyway, it does consciously layer different time frames to keep the pace moving forward and obscure the mystery a bit. Both are also intensely suspenseful.

Two other darker psychological suspense books that I have read which would be a great suggestion here are Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger and The Darkling by R B Chesterton. You can click on the title for a detailed review of either.

As I mentioned above this is not a readalike for The Girl on the Train, the current bestselling “psychological suspense” novel.  Rather, I think Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy is a better new, psychological suspense readalike here.

Outside the Box Suggestion: This really was the best serial killer book I have read in a long time because of how original it is.  Interestingly, I felt similarly about The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell only as the best and most original zombie book I had  ever read.  These two books share a genre-- psychological suspense, but they are also both unique, intricately plotted works that tip toward literary fiction, but still keep the suspense and action at the forefront. If you liked either, try the other.

Monday, August 24, 2015

RA Service Assessment: Step One-- Assess Your Own Reading Preferences

Working from home perks.
The kids went back to school today [morning only]. So, today marks the official first day of my new life as a RA consultant, full time.

When I left the Berwyn Library on June 4th to help train libraries to serve leisure readers better, this day was marked on the calendar as when I had to start buckling down. Although I have already booked a busy Fall and have even done a full day out-of-town in-service day before this date came, it is exciting and scary that it is here.

But, I have not been very committed to the blog this summer. That changes today.  This week expect me to catch up on many, many reviews. I am also presenting with NoveList and Booklist at RAILS on Thursday, and that video will be sent out via Booklist nationally very soon after.

But the real area upon which I am focusing my in-person and blogging efforts is an area that has been too long neglected when it comes to RA service-- assessment. Those of us on the front lines of training librarians to provide excellent RA service have had to focus on teaching the basics and populating the public library world with RA focused librarians.

Enough progress has been made on that front that, while there are still a lot of people who need basic training, there are also enough trying to provide RA service that I need to start helping people assess what they are offering. That is where I can help where others cannot, and it is why I am embarking on this new professional adventure.

Here is what this all means for you, my loyal readers.  I have started a new series entitled, “RA Service Assessment” which will be filed under the tag “assessment." These posts will go deeper than those that I tag "RA training."  They will be about how you can take actual steps to analyze your efforts with leisure readers and determine the course you should take in the future.

Today I am going to start with the very first step you need to take; in fact, back when I was teaching the RA class, it was very first assignment our students did-- writing your own reader profile. The main idea behind sitting down and really thinking about your own personal appeal preferences and why you like what you like and don’t like what you don’t like is that when you think about your own preferences and the reasons behind them, it is much easier for you to understand the reading preferences of others.  No, you may not share anything in common with that patron you are currently engaging in a RA conversation, but at least you understand the process of being forced to put your reading preferences into words. You are much better able to take what the patron tell you and turn it into a suggested list of books if you have been through the process yourself.  Trust me here, I have seen it work for myself and dozens of students.

This is a complicated, level 2, RA issue, but if you click here you can access past, in depth posts on why assessing your own reading preferences is essential to providing solid RA service to your patrons, including actual downloadable examples of student profiles and responses.

In order to streamline the process for managers and staff members alike, I have created this simple form you can use to get the process started.  You should also feel free to click through and print this form to use with your staff, or use it to make your own.  All I ask is that you let people know that you got it from RA for All.

Once you have had people fill these out, you need to start thinking about step 2-- using the results to start a library wide RA conversation between staff.  Ahh, but that is for the next post.

I am posting these assessment themes for the libraries that want [or need] to go through this process on their own without the cost of me facilitating it. I truly want to help as many libraries as possible, but there are only so many hours in the day and so many plane rides I can take in a row. As a library trustee, I also know that money is tight. That being said though, if you are interested in me facilitating your library's audit of their services to leisure readers, let me know.  I am in the process of completing my first one and will have pricing and time lines available very soon.

Friday, August 21, 2015

RA for All Roadshow: Camarillo, CA

Today I will be working with the staff of the Camarillo Public Library as I lead them in a full day of RA training. 

Below is the schedule with links to the handouts and presentations. Anyone can use these links, but only Camarillo staff get to have me present them in person.

You can click here to see a list of my previous and upcoming presentations. You can also go here to contact me about coming to your library, organization,  or system

Camarillo [CA] Public Library In-Service Day-- August 21, 2015-- 9am -5pm
  • 9 am to 10:30 am: RA for All: From Pages to Directors, this program is aimed at any staff member in the library who interacts with patrons. Being able to provide good RA service from any desk in the library will help staff communicate effectively and ensure satisfied patrons. Using her “Ten Rules of Basic RA Service" as a guide," Becky Spratford will show you how to help any patron find their next great read. It's not as hard as you think. 
  • 10:45 am -12:15 pm: Demystifying Genre: Part 1 [Lunch Break]1:30-3 pm: Working With Genre Fiction Readers: Part 2 [The two genre program have one general description]: Nothing 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 training 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.
  • 3:15-4:15 pm: Booktalking: Harnessing the Power of Sharing Books with Patrons: Booktalking is at the heart of what we do with patrons each and every day at the public library. Whether we are sharing books informally at the services desk, presenting a prepared list of books, or posting information online, talking about books is something we do each and every day. It is a core service, but it is also hard to teach. Booktalking is more of an art than a skill, but with the right guidance and some practice, it can go a long way toward engaging your patrons and re-energizing your staff. Join experienced Readers’ Advisory Becky Spratford as she shares the secret behind delivering great book talks, giving you tips and tricks you can begin using right away to hone your own skills. Rediscover the power and joy that comes from sharing books with patrons.
    • Slidesfeatures a brand new Halloween 2015 booktalk
  • 4:15-4:45 pm: Creating Your Own Reader Profile and Wrap Up: Becky will end the day helping you take what you have learned to craft your own personal reader profile and start you on your first RA journey-- suggesting a good book to a fellow staff member.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August is Read a Romance Month: Links to Help You Help Patrons

Thanks to Kimberly over on the always fabulous and now newly remodeled YA focused Stacked, I found out that August is read a romance month.  In Kimberly's essay she talks frankly about her recent "embracing" of herself as a romance reader.

There are a couple of thoughts that popped into my head after reading her piece from a RA training perspective.

First, since August is "Read a Romance Month," get out there and make a romance display, or at least make up a quick sign and put it near your romance books.

Second, although I am not a fan of Romance, it always troubles me how much Romance is belittled and put down.  As a horror fan and expert, I know exactly how the Romance people feel.  Genres that appeal first and foremost to your emotions, especially primal ones (love and fear in these cases), never get the respect they deserve.

In Publisher's Weekly last week, best selling romance author Kristan Higgins addressed this head on when she wrote this blunt and eloquent essay on why Romance is regularly dismissed and why the people who do it are stupid. Everyone who works with romance readers-- and that is EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU-- needs to read this essay.

And Third, I thought I would use this opportunity to share resources for all of you to use to help your romance patrons.  Don't worry about whether or not you like the genre (or any genre for that matter). Instead, use the reader's enthusiasm and love for romance to get you excited about helping him or her.

So here are some links to get you excited and to point you in the right direction:

  • The Romance Writer's of America has THE BEST writers association website. They have an entire section on Romance as a genre, including the mind blowing industry statistics [over 1 billion dollars in romance sales a year!].
  • If I could only have one romance resource I would choose Smart Bitches, Trashy Books no question. Just click through an look. They help me look like a romance expert.
  • Speaking of me not being a romance expert...click here for all of my adventures in romance including longer lists of resources and reviews of the few romances I have read.
  • And don't forget that NPR Books dubbed the summer of 2015, "The Summer of Love."  Click here to read my posts on that with links to their resources and lists.

Oh, and you could always join the party and read a romance this month.  You still have time. Use the links to find the perfect romance for you. Practice on yourself and be your own readers' advisor.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Revisiting My Series on RA Training Tips for a Great 2015

You may have noticed, but my appearances and trainings have ramped up considerably now that I am able to pursue providing RA instruction full time.  You can click here for the full official schedule of confirmed trainings. 

Since I will be making the rounds to a library or computer screen near you, I thought today was a good time to revisit the RA training goals I laid out back in January.  Click here to access the 4 part series all at once.

This was a new January series for me and it was quite popular back in the winter.  Much of what I will be doing in the upcoming training sessions is in direct response to the goals I laid out in those posts.

So as a refresher for you before you see me, or for those of you encountering these posts for the first time, click through and see the RA for All Cliff Notes version of how to be the best RA librarian you can be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Promoting the Midlist: Booklist Webinar Archive and Becky's Thoughts on the Power of the Midlist

I am still catching up on all of the great RA training and resources that I missed while ignoring work for 10 days on vacation, and I figured if I missed it, you might have too.

Here is the archive recording of a FREE, 60 minute webinar that is worth your time:
Readers' Advisory for Your Library's Midlist Collection   (August 11, 2015)  Join Booklist and Thorndike Press for this free, hour-long webinar on using Readers’ Advisory to leverage your library’s midlist, with a special focus on Large Print books. RA experts Wendy Bartlett (Cuyahoga County Public Library), Robin Nesbitt (Columbus Metropolitan Library), and Joyce Saricks from Booklist will discuss approaches and techniques to help you promote your adult midlist—and help your readers find those special under-the-radar gems.  
Click on the title to access the webinar..

I talk about the backlist a lot here on the blog, most recently in detail back in January in this post. Here is an excerpt:
I have talked about the backlist  many times on this blog, but the basic gist is that there are more great reading choices lurking in the stacks than there are on the new shelf.  The newest hottest books are selling themselves because that's what is dominating the media right now; but most are quickly forgotten.  You will have your best luck and your most rewarding experiences with the backlist titles you suggest. [You can see more from me on the topic here.]
But, this webinar also brings up an important point-- Midlist books are a great way for us to show off our stuff to patrons. In fact, I have started a tag here on the blog for midlist to go with the one I use regularly for backlist.

As Joyce said in the webinar, and as was tweeted out by Lucy Lockley using the hashtag #MidlistRA:

Who else is letting patrons know about these titles? It's not their publishers or bookstores or even the media.  They are all focused on the new, the shiny, and the hot titles of the moment. There are great titles that we bought last year, 4 years ago, heck, even last week that are fantastic reads but are not getting the attention they deserve. These are those "sure bets" we keep up our sleeves to help patrons when we are stuck. [Click here for more from me on "sure bets."]

Midlist is different than the backlist in a key way however, as midlist might be current books. Sometimes readers resist the backlist because the titles are "old." Experience has shown me that this is the case more often than not.  I could often talk patrons who trusted me into reading old titles because they were willing to take the leap "back in time" based on previous successful RA interactions, but in order to earn the trust of patrons in the early days of our RA relationship, midlist options worked wonders. The readers got a great read they never knew existed and it was fairly current (same year).

Don't underestimate the psychological advantage you have by suggesting new books that your patrons may have missed. Old books your patrons expect you to know about. Current bestsellers, same.  But current midlist titles.... you have their attention now. How did you know that? Well, it's our job to know, but most of our library users don't realize that we are that awesome. You need to stand up and show them how great you truly are! The midlist is a great opportunity to do that.

Here's one of my recent successes of a midlist title, not mentioned in the webinar, that has wowed more than a few patrons in the manner I described above-- Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement.

So spend 60 minutes watching this webinar to learn why you need to care about the midlist. It will help you look like a superstar to your patrons, finding them great reads they never would have identified on their own and isn't that why we do this job in the first place?

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Book Suggestion Podcast from Book Riot As a Unique RA Training Resource

Get Booked is a brand new podcast from Book Riot and it is perfect for all of you who provide RA service.  Here is their description of what they are going to do:
"We’ve got a new podcast coming your way! Get Booked will be a biweekly write-in show for personalized book recommendations, whether they’re for you, your great Aunt Sally, or anyone else in your life! Want to know what to read to fill the Harry Potter void? We’re here for you. Need a bookish gift for your dad? On it. Want a list of excellent romance novels for your book club? I’ve got your back. I’ll be hosting the show, and each week I’ll have a new guest host to help me."Click through to the Book Riot site here to listen to episode 0. You can also send in your request for a book recommendation with a form on that same page.

Normally I am not impressed by non-librarian book recommendation sites, but this is Book Riot. They have former librarians working for them. They understand the concept and principles of suggesting books to readers from our perspective.

But I am taking the time to write a blog post about this new podcast for reasons beyond simply letting you know it exists [which is a good enough reason].  I also want to point out the training opportunities this podcast will provide.

Here is your chance to listen to someone else work with a reader.  You can learn by listening to how they take a reader's preferences and turn them into suggestions.  Episode 0 already showcases how the same request can lead to 2 different suggestions. 

I often praise the benefits of using Goodreads or Amazon reviews [especially the 1 and 5 star reviews] as a way to see actual reader comments and learn why someone may love or hate a book, but up until now, there has not been a way to listen to RA questions being answered. We can all learn a lot by observing others working with readers.

In fact, this is a major flaw in all RA training.  I spend all of this time giving you tips and advice on how to help your readers, but very few of you can actually observe me helping a reader.  A lot of what I am trying to show you is only learned by watching me [or another RA expert] in action. Well, here is a chance to fill in this training gap right now! I for one am very excited about the training implications here.

I have an idea. After helping a patron, why not also submit his or her inquiry (with his or her permission) to the Get Booked site? Then you could see what other suggestions Book Riot comes up with.

So, I would like to encourage all of you to subscribe and listen. You really owe it to your patrons.  I am also going to look into ways that I can work this kind of training into my presentations too.  We need more opportunities and examples of people providing RA in response to an actual question; more opportunities to observe each other in action; more opportunities to improve our services to leisure readers.

Library Reads: September 2015

This is late because I was on vacation but I want to post it for continuity.  All previous lists are available with this link.

[I will have another post later today]

September 2015 LibraryReads List

Art of Crash Landingblog

The Art of Crash Landing:
A Novel

by Melissa DeCarlo

by Harper Paperbacks
ISBN: 9780062390547
“At once tragic and hilarious, this book is a roller coaster of a read. You’ll find yourself rooting for the snarky and impulsive but ultimately lovable Mattie. At the heart of this tale is a beautifully unraveled mystery that has led Mattie to her current circumstances, ultimately bringing her to her first real home.”
                                                        Patricia Kline-Millard, Bedford Public Library, Bedford, NH 
Make Me blog

Make Me:

A Jack Reacher Novel

by Lee Child

Published: 9/8/2015 by Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9780804178778
“Jack Reacher is back. Jack gets off a train at an isolated town. Soon, he is learning much more about the town, and its residents are learning not to mess around with Jack Reacher. Readers new to this series will find this book a good starting point, and fans will be pleased to see Jack again.”
Jenna Persick, Chester County Library, Exton, PA

House of Thieves bw

House of Thieves: A Novel

by Charles Belfoure

Published: 9/15/2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492617891
“Belfoure’s intriguing novel is set in Gilded Age New York City. John Cross, head of the family, finds an unexpected talent for planning robberies, while his wife and children also discover their inner criminals. The historical details and setting evoke old New York. I enjoyed every minute of their escapades.”
Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton Public Library, Groton, CT 

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Fates and Furies: A Novel

by Lauren Groff

Published: 9/15/2015 by Riverhead Books
ISBN: 9781594634475
Fates and Furies is a modern portrait of marriage. Lotto Satterwhite is the center, the hub around which all the characters revolve in the first half of the book. In the second half of the book, the lens turns to Lotto’s wife Mathilde, and her side of the lopsided partnership gives us a totally different view. Groff is a master of language. It’s not a gentle read. But it’s magnificent.”
Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN 


Did You Ever Have A Family

by Bill Clegg

Published: 9/8/2015 by Gallery/Scout Press
ISBN: 9781476798172
“Clegg’s devastatingly beautiful fiction debut is the portrait of a community in the aftermath of a tragedy. June Reid, the broken woman at the epicenter of the novel, is struggling with a loss so profound that she is unable to see beyond her grief, unaware that it has touched many people. Clegg tells their stories with heartbreaking sensitivity and insight.”
Mary Coe, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, Fairfield, CT 


The Gates of Evangeline

by Hester Young

Published: 9/1/2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 9780399174001
“Journalist Charlie Cates goes to gloomy, swampy Louisiana to write a book about the disappearance of a young child. Her research uncovers family secrets, lies, and clandestine affairs. This first book in a new series is incredibly suspenseful, with a vivid setting, a supernatural tinge, and an intricate plot that keeps you guessing until the end.”
Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ 

furiously happyblog

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

by Jenny Lawson

Published: 9/22/2015 by Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250077004
“Lawson’s hilarious memoir is a romp between absurdity and despondency. Passages alternate from ridiculously funny stories of her life to episodes of her sometimes debilitating depression. Lawson embraces living life, rather than merely surviving it. Why be just happy when you can be furiously so? Recommended to fans of David Sedaris and Sloane Crosley.”
                                                               PJ Gardiner, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, NC 


This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

by Jonathan Evison
Published: 9/8/2015 by Algonquin Books
ISBN: 9781616202613

“Harriet Chance receives word that her recently deceased husband, Bernard, has won an Alaskan cruise. Deciding to go on the trip, she is given a letter from her close friend Mildred, with instructions not to open it until she is on the cruise. The contents of this letter shatter Harriet and she begins to reevaluate her life and her relationships.”
Arleen Talley, Anne Arundel County Public Library Foundation, Annapolis, MD 


Girl Waits With Gun

by Amy Stewart

Published: 9/1/2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 9780544409910
“When the Kopp sisters and their buggy are injured by Henry Kaufmann’s car, Constance Kopp at first just wants him to pay the damages. As she pursues justice, she meets another of Kaufmann’s victims, the young woman Lucy. Stewart creates fully developed characters, including the heroine, Constance, who is fiercely independent as she faces down her fears. The time period and setting are important parts of the story as well, providing a glimpse of 1914 New Jersey.”
                                                                  Maggie Holmes, Richards Memorial Library, North Attleboro, MA 


The Scribe: A Novel

by Matthew Guinn

Published: 9/14/2015 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393239294
“A shunned detective is pulled back to Atlanta to solve some brutal murders that seem to be the work of a serial killer. Political intrigue, a fascinating time in this country’s history, and a good old-fashioned murder mystery make this one fascinating read. This book asks the question: when a man has had everything taken away, will he still fight for what is right?”
Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

Monday, August 10, 2015

RA for All Vacation 8/10-8/14 And an Exciting Training Annoucement

I will be on vacation this week, enjoying the end of summer with the family.

No new posts until 8/17.

But, there is a large archive of old posts to help you in my absence.

Now go out there and help match some readers with books.

While I am offline, keep an eye out for an exciting announcement involving me, Booklist, NoveList and RAILS coming 8/27. Hint- keep that afternoon free. Preview here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Guest Post Review of The Scarlet Gospels

This is a joint post with RA for All: Horror and a gentle reminder that Halloween planning needs to start now.

Today I have asked my friend, fellow librarian, AND  published horror author Jack Phoenix to share his love of the new Clive Barker novel.

And if you are looking for a satisfyingly terrifying read that also supports a good cause, click here to learn more about Jack's novel, The Tormentors.  I really enjoyed it.

You can learn more about Jack and his many projects here.

Review of The Scarlet Gospels, the Latest From Clive Barker
By Jack Phoenix 

It’s Pinhead, like you’ve never seen him before! Which readers may find wonderful, offensive, or perhaps, like Pinhead himself, they will find pleasure in the pain. With The Scarlet Gospels, Clive Barker brings us his definitive (and admittedly final) version of everyone’s favorite sadomasochistic Cenobite. 

Our story is a crossover of two of Barker’s franchises, pitting Pinhead, now revealed to be called the Hell Priest, against paranormal investigator Harry D’Amour. The Hell Priest is on a mission; appropriate all the human magic he can with the goal of usurping the throne of Hell itself. Caught in the mess, as he is wont to do, is our tattooed, aging Harry, whom the Hell Priest has chosen to be his personal chronicler. When the Hell Priest attempts to secure the detective’s acquiescence by kidnapping and brutalizing one of Harry’s closest associates, D’Amour and his ragtag team of friends are lured into the depths of Hell to rescue her and to stop the Hell Priest’s crazed crusade of power.

There will be two kinds of people who will flock to this book; Hellraiser fans and Clive Barker fans. Clive Barker fans will find an exciting new read, though not nearly as ambitious, original, or as intricately, darkly beautiful with the word-craft as much of his prior work. They will lavish in revisiting D’Amour, and in seeing the Hell Priest for the first time fully realized in print. They will squeal at the demonic landscapes painted for them as the Harrowers travel through Hell, and will find them fondly reminiscent of Imajica. The book is full of humorous and touching moments, like we saw in Coldheart Canyon, mostly between Harry and the tear-jerkingly yet sternly maternal Norma, as well as Barker’s signature blend of erotic gore (a demon pleasuring himself at the sight of a man burning to death, for instance) throughout. 

Hellraiser fans, however, may be disappointed by this book. Indeed, the author’s apparent resentment for Pinhead (perhaps stemming from the fact that Hellraiser is Barker’s most well-known property, despite there being only one previous book, in which Pinhead is fleeting and unrecognizable, and his attachment to only the first two films) bleeds through here. And it’s no mystery (Barker has been saying so since announcing the book’s inception) that The Scarlet Gospels is intended to be his send-off of the character, one who holds the distinction among his fellow cinematic slasher contemporaries of having a literary basis. But those who have fallen in ecstasy with the stony charisma of the Pinhead of the films, a killer who lets his chains do the work, never gets his hands dirty, and kills, not for vengeance or even for pleasure, but for blind devotion to his craft, will find something very different here. Here is a truly sinister villain with a lust for power and a massive ego, one who is capable of rape and who coerces with his fists when he has to. Gone is the ambiguous (or even lack of) theology of the first two films and original novella, and here is an explicit demon, a true denizen of the Hell of the Abrahamic traditions, who engages in an epic battle with Lucifer himself. Some Pinhead fans may find this portrayal rather jarring. Others may simply find it is closer to some of his portrayals in the later, non-Barker films. 

To its credit, The Scarlet Gospels is entirely accessible to new Barker-readers, functions well as a stand-alone novel, and its plot is not reliant upon the D’Amour series or The Hellbound Heart, though those would be natural recommendations to read next. The sweeping scope of the Harrowers’ travels through Hell also makes this book a dark fantasy, so fans of The Dark Tower series will find a lot of value in this read, as would fans of paranormal mystery series such as The Dresden Files, since D’Amour’s cynicism and blasé attitude toward the supernatural will be familiar ground.

Also, do not forget the importance of this book’s cinematic ties. This should be an immediate recommendation to your library’s horror movie buffs, even those who do not claim to read. What lies between the pages of this book is a rare and perfect opportunity for collection cross-pollination, so take advantage of that with a clever display. Perhaps some chains?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let's Brush Up on Historical Fiction-- Another New Feature

I am often asked to provide genre training to librarians-- both on specific genres and on helping genre readers in general. I am always happy to do this for any genre, but the frequency of these requests has been increasing lately and I don't want to limit myself to only helping those who I can reach in person or with webinars.

In the hopes of helping as many people as possible, I am starting another new training feature here on the blog that I am calling, "Let's Brush Up." I will take up genres and even smaller subgenres and focus on the key titles and how to help fans.

My work over the last two years running the ARRT Crime Fiction Genre Study has invigorated me to the benefit of regular genre "brush ups" for all library workers who assist leisure readers, and now that my genre study duties are winding down, I will have time to focus on all the genres.

So I begin today with Historical Fiction.

Recently, Booklist hosted this webinar on Historical Fiction. It includes an overview of the genre and its appeal to readers by Jen Baker, the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Historical Fiction [from the same series as my horror book], a broad look at the genre with a focus on key titles by Brad Hooper, author of this book on Historical Fiction and Adult Editor at Booklist, and a representative from FiveStar [publisher].

The webinar as a whole provides a quick overview of the genre and provides some key new titles to keep your eye out for. It is free to anyone with this link.

Back in April, I also prepared a brand new 60 minute webinar on Historical Fiction for the Massachusetts Library System. You can watch the entire webinar here. Slides only are here.

My webinar contains much more general information about helping Historical Fiction readers including a clickable list of resources if you use the slides only link.

Between these 2 webinars you can feel confident that you can help today's historical fiction readers, and goodness knows there are a lot of them, so start brushing up.

On a side note, I am getting enough regular features now that this Fall I will work on a more official schedule and a page where they can all be easily accessed in one place.

If you want a specific genre tackled sooner rather than later or you want me to create another feature that would help you to help your readers better, please let me know.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Reminder: USA Today Book Section

I realized it’s been awhile since I have talked about the USA Today’s book coverage.

People, say what you want about the newspaper, but it has some pretty stellar book coverage. In fact, in terms of how much it helps me to help patrons, there really are no other general periodical websites that I use as regularly.

One of the the things I like most about their coverage is their best seller list. It has the top 150 books in one list....together.  Yes, as someone who mostly works with adult readers, and mostly fiction readers, I appreciate more specialized lists, but there is something powerful in the USA Today list.  Nowhere else can you get a snapshot of the most popular books, ranked purely by sales, regardless of audience, format, or genre, all in one place.

If you are helping leisure readers at the public library, you NEED to check this list weekly to understand what America is reading.

Besides the best seller list, the book section publishes articles, interviews, and reviews every day.  Go on over and check it our for yourself.

Don’t be a book snob and think you are too good for the USA Today book section. It is a treasure trove of up to date information for you and your patrons.

Monday, August 3, 2015

NoveList RA News: August 2015: Science Fiction

This month, the NoveList RA Newsletter is all about Science Fiction. You can find helpful articles like: Reading Science Fiction for Pleasure and Women in Science Fiction.

But the biggest, FREE resource you are getting here this month is access to Joyce Saricks’ brand new updated article, Getting Up To Speed in Science Fiction.

The “Getting Up To Speed...” articles are some of my favorite resources on the NoveList database. They are a quick and reliable way to make sure that I understand the genres, the key titles, and why fans love theses books. I also regularly point librarians to these articles when they are asking me for help running staff genre studies. These are librarians who have access to NoveList and didn’t know that it contained the guidance they were looking for.

So today, start your week by looking over Joyce’s new updated Getting Up To Speed in Science Fiction; whether you have access to NoveList or not, you can read this one for free.

But, if you do work at a library who pays for access to NoveList, go into the database and take a peek at some of the hundreds of other genre guides that are there, for all age levels, for fiction and nonfiction.