I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What I’m Reading: Every Heart a Doorway

Today I have a review of the novella, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. Plot via Goodreads:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations No Visitors No Guests 
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. 
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. 
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 
No matter the cost.
Appeal: This book is perfect for fans of darker fairy tales because when these kids return from their jaunts in magical lands, they are forever changed, and most cannot readjust to life in the real world. Just that set up alone will draw many fantasy fans to this novella.

Nancy as our guide is a clever way to introduce the setting here. She has returned from a very dark world, but yet, she loved it. She was literally surrounded by death and wants to return more than anything else. McGuire handles this so well. It would be easy to explain why a kid would have loved being in a happy land full of sparkles and fairies, but to be able to explain why Nancy feels grief at being away from her dark lord while still having her be an empowered young lady [she is no victim] is quite a feat.

Soon after Nancy’s arrival one of the students is murdered. This plot device keeps the story moving briskly and allows us to meet every character and evaluate them as a suspect. McGuire is able to introduce each character and explain the hierarchy of magical lands and how they are divided (it is fascinating, and in the readalikes section I have more on the topic), all while keeping the murder investigation moving forward.

While most of the kids at the school are archetypical examples of the type of kid that gets sucked into  a vaguely familiar magical land, there are 2 very key characters who we all know-- Jack and Jill. Their story stands at the center of this slim volume. McGuire gives these kids, who all we have ever known about them is that they "go up the hill,” a complicated and intriguing backstory.

Overall, this is a character driven story. If you are not interested in the kids and their plight as refugees from a magical world, you will not like this book.

The novella also has a main trans character and the entire story is very queer friendly. It is actually a good read for all teens who are questioning their place in the world [for what whatever reason] as it is all about being who you are and being true to your self first and foremost, no matter what social norms tell you that you should be.

It is a clever, thought provoking, and fun read that can be consumed in a single sitting, especially on a "dark and stormy night.” And McGuire promises more tales of the Wayward Children to come. Yay.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fairy tale retelling, atmospheric, clever

Readalikes: My first readalike is this map/article from Tor.com about how the information in Every Heart a Doorway can help all of us geeks map every magical world into a multiverse. This article will lead you down a rabbit hole of geeky fun.

I think Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is an obvious readlaike, but honestly, I felt like The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a better option. Both Every Heart a Doorway and The Night Circus have teen protagonists in a magical realism setting with great details and a dark quest. It is important to note however that The Night Circus is a long novel, and Every Heart a Doorway is a novella.

Three other books I have read and really enjoyed which all have a fairy tale feel but are not explicitly fantasy are The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick de Witt

I have read many clever, twists on fairy tale novels. Here are some of my favorites with links to the reviews. None of these are straight out retellings, rather, like this novella, they are darker, original, tales that use a fairy tale as the story’s starting point. And remember those reviews contain even more readalikes:
For a similar author, I would suggest Helen Oyeyemi. I read Mr. Fox a few years ago, and that would be a great readalike. I am also about to read Boy, Snow, Bird for the ARRT book discussion.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Year in Review: NoveList's 2016 Most Popular Searches

As the end of the year approaches, I am going to be occasionally pointing you toward some "Year in Review" posts by others. However, please note that I will only be sharing those year end wrap up reports that have training implications. I will not be linking to every single "Best List." You can go here or here for that.

Today's post is a perfect example. Over on their blog [and available to anyone, whether you subscribe to the database or not], NoveList has posted their list of the most popular searches from 2016.

You can click through for the entire report, but below I have pulled one list from the larger post to explain why you should care about this data even if you NEVER use NoveList.

I always take notice when NoveList posts this list:
Top 5 Keeping Up... pages
The Keeping Up... genre pages in NoveList deliver all the important info you need on understanding popular genres and help you better pinpoint books readers will love. Find all the Keeping Up... pages in NoveList by entering UI 440110 in the search bar. These were the top 5 most accessed this past year:

  1. YA Lit
  2. Mystery
  3. Historical Fiction
  4. Biography and Memoir
  5. Romance
Why? Because this is probably staff searching for information to help them understand a specific genre better. Either the staff are getting more questions than normal on these genres or they do not feel like they have a handle on them-- or both! No matter the reasons, these are the genres you should start with for yourself. These are the most searched on a large database. Are you up to speed on what is going on here? The data seems to suggest that chances are, you are not.

But to take the training implications a step further, I would like you to also ask yourself to think about your own personal knowledge gaps. What genres have you been asked about this year, especially if it was more than once, where you did not feel "up to speed?" Maybe it is not one of these 5 but there is at least one. If you have NoveList go check out the page for that genre and if you do not, start researching the trends and award winners for that genre right now.  Need help? Click on the genre in my list of tags in the right gutter of the blog for places to begin.

Everyone, reading this...myself included... has at least one knowledge gap to close. None of you are exempt.

There is much more to learn from NoveList sharing their data with all of us. You can click here to see it all, but please as you read it, apply what you see to yourself and your own experiences helping patrons. You will get much more out of the post if you take this extra step.

 Finally, for comparison's sake and because I never shut up about using the backlist, here is the link to my post on the 2015 NoveList Year in Review.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Call to Action: Make a Holiday Gift Guide

Over the holiday week, I received an email from Penguin Random House telling me about their gift hotline and how you can ask them for the perfect book to buy for those on your holiday list.

I am not exaggerating when I tell that you after reading that email I was literally shaking with rage.


It was a Call to Action moment if I ever saw one. Here's why I am upset at us-- not them-- for not being on top of this and why WE should be the ones making holiday gift guides to help our patrons find the perfect gift for their loved ones.

First of all, let's start with the obvious. Publisher suggestions for the perfect gift are inherently biased. They can only suggest books they have published. At the library, we collect books based on their contents, not based on who published it. We can suggest anything.

Second, BACKLIST. I know I talk about it a lot here on the blog, but the backlist is truly the library's BFF. We know about and have in stock all the older, great titles out there. The ones that are winners year after year. The publishers are mostly suggesting books that are new to hardcover or paperback. So we are talking 1-3 years old for the majority. That is extremely limiting from a gift giving perspective.

Third, last time I checked, library workers help with more than just books. We help patrons with DVDs, audiobooks, downloadables, etc... Many of us also check out items like Roku, GoPro cameras, iPads, etc.... I spent hours each holiday shopping season helping multiple patrons navigate the process of buying [for themselves or others] an eReader or tablet. I was using my advisory skills to ask them questions and help them identify which of these tech products was best for them, gave them pro and con lists, and sample questions to ask the sales people. But in general, all of us who work at the public library can help our patrons find the best gift for those on their lists beyond just books.

Fourth, we know our communities. Back to books now, because it is unfair to fault the book publishers for only knowing about books. The publishers know the national trends. They have entire teams of people looking at these. But we know our communities. We know what books work best with them. We are the local book experts. No matter how many numbers the publisher's trends people crunch, we will always have a better handle on our local readers and their needs-- even if our patrons don't realize it.

Fifth, as I alluded to in number 4, we can use a library created gift guide to promote how awesome we are to our patrons. It will remind them not only that do we care about their needs [finding the perfect gifts for loved ones], but also that we are the best people to ask about the items we check out at the library. We know and understand the products and how our community members use them better than anyone else in the area. Let's shout it from the rooftops with a gift guide people.

Sixth, you as the main RA person do not need to go at this gift guide stuff alone. You have an entire staff, no matter which department they work in, to help you. At the very least, send out an email asking staff to share their favorite book they read this year, no matter the year in which it was published. Also, you can ask people to share which books they are buying for the people in their lives.  All of that information can be used to create a whole library gift guide, AND it is a great team building exercise. Do not underestimate how much people want to help, or how good it makes who don't normally get to field these types of questions.

Seventh, patrons can "test drive" their potential gift by checking it out of the library. This is a perk only library's can provide.

Finally, a holiday gift guide published by the library is a wonderful way to organize your hyper local "best list." Include the most checked out books both new and backlist in all formats and age ranges. Have a recap of genre and major award winners. Use the information you gathered from staff as mentioned above, and include trends and hot topics that came up over the past year- like diverse books. It is a great way to compile all of that "year end" information you are already gathering in one place that is both easy to retrieve when you need to use it and promotes yourself to the community. And find a way to allow for patrons to submit their own items to the gift guide whether it's as a comment to an online guide or a hand written suggestion.

And as a bonus, if you do a gift guide every year, you can use past year's gift guides to help patron's every holiday and all year long. They become library sure bets lists! The library produced gift guide is literally the gift that keeps on giving, to patrons and staff, all the year through.

To inspire you to create your library's holiday gift guide, here are the links to a few examples:
This Call to Action is one any library can do-- big or small. It showcases that you think about all patrons, it shows that you are the community book experts, and it is a extremely useful service. Please leave your library's gift guide in the comments if you have one to share. The more of these we compile, the more readers we will help-- to buy gifts for loved ones and to find their own next good read any time of year.

For the Call to Action Archive click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Self Published Award Winners

I was busy with holiday prep today, so I am posting something I had been saving.

Library Journal recently announced their Indie Ebook Award winners:
LJ recently concluded its second annual Indie Ebook Awards. Committees of librarians—plus one of last year’s winners—volunteered their time to evaluate hundreds of submissions to determine the best ebooks self-publishing has to offer in fantasy, mystery, romance, sf, and YA. These books—and many others—can be found on SELF-e, a subscription-based digital discovery platform for self-published books that is a partnership between LJ and BiblioBoard. Congratulations to the 2016 winners!
Click here for the winners broken up by genre.

That list with winners and honorable mention titles is the perfect place to start if you are looking to add self published titles to your library collections.

Personally I am saddened that there wasn’t a horror category because I KNOW that there are many awesome self published horror tiles, some by big name authors. But this is a great start.

On a more local level here in Illinois, the Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project has also partnered with BiblioBoard to promote self published authors.

2016 has definitely seen a distinct legitimization of including of self published authors in library collections. I don’t think it is a coincidence that BiblioBoard is a common factor here. They are making it easier to add all kinds of ebooks, but especially self published, e-only titles to library collections.

I am starting to see the tipping point for self published books being easily added to libraries on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What I’m Reading: Today Will Be Different

Remember, these reviews are now shorter but more useful. Think of each as a 5 minute speed read of the book, for its appeal, to its best reader. [And yes, I timed reading it aloud and it is under 5 minutes]

Today Will Be DifferentToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple is the followup to Where's You Go Bernadette. You can click through to my review on that title if you are interested.

Publisher's Description [via Goodreads]:
A genius novel from the author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette, about a day in the life of Eleanor Flood, forced to abandon her small ambitions when she awakes to a strange, new future unfolding.  
Eleanor knows she's a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won't swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother's company. It's also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he's on vacation. Just when it seems like things can't go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret. 
TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.
Appeal: Everything in this book is exaggerated. This is satire to the nth degree. But it also brings the truth. That is the heart of this book-- an over the top look at a privileged life that is laugh out loud funny AND thought provoking.

The story focuses on Eleanor, an extreme exaggeration of a woman who is a mess. She is a loving, caring wife and mother, but as an artist without a project, she has trouble navigating life. She is an anti-hero, yes, but she means well and is extremely sympathetic and engaging, drawing us into her story.

The exaggeration and satire are heavy handed yes, but very funny. Poking fun at life in Seattle, wealthy people problems, raising a responsible 21st century child etc.. But amidst the humorous fails,  that keep you laughing, there is much to learn here. You are laughing one minute and then-- WHAM -- Semple hits you with some hard truths.

These hard truth come in two forms. First, Semple has some family secrets that are eating her up inside.  We see them in the form of a graphic novel she wrote AND in prose flashbacks involving her relationship with her sister. These secrets humanize Eleanor and bring the story back down to earth. But Simple doesn’t wallow in “woe is me” here which is different than most female driven family strife stories. Humor, self deprecation, and bad choices are how she attempts to deal.

Two, the hard truth also comes directly at the reader. Sometimes exaggeration is a great way to get you to look at your own life with fresh eyes. I challenge anyone to read this novel and not rethink something in your own family dynamic. The story sneaks up on you. You are having fun while reading it and thinking it has nothing to do with you and your life, but it does. The issues and ideas stay with you after you close the page. It is a book that increased in enjoyment in a days after I finished. That was cool.

This is a short, fast-paced story with equal action and character development and a thought-provoking yet humorous tone. It would be a great read over the holiday season, if you can handle the introspection into your own family relationships that this novel will bring.

None of us are that different from Eleanor; we just all hide it better.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Sardonic, Flawed but Sympathetic Protagonist, Family Centric

Readalikes: While this is ultimately a family with issues stories I would NOT give it to fans of Jodi Picoult. This novel has none of the melodrama.

I think most people will enjoy other books about being a woman, wife, mother, and sister in today’s world told with sardonic humor. In fact, I first thought of readalikes that are actually memoirs by female comedians like Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling and Jenny Lawson. Not only is the humor similar, but Today Will Be Different reads like a confession, as if Eleanor is giving us her memoir in the hopes to figure out who she truly is and where she should take her life next. The women I listed as readalikes do the exact same thing. Plus, memoirs are not all true, and this novel is definitely grounded in the truth of Semple’s life experiences.

Using NoveList, I found this suggestion-- The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, a European bestseller, misadventure, with a sardonic tone, Sounds like a great match. And that got me thinking that the best fiction matches for Today Will Be Different are most likely going to be from European authors. I also found, Butterflies in November by  Audur Ava Olafsdottir. Click through for details as to why it is similar.

The Circle by David Eggers would also be a good choice for those looking for a modern satire that is funny but thought provoking.

As I mentioned above, there is a graphic memoir inside Today Will Be Different. It is a source of Eleanor’s pride but it also is the root of much of her hurt.  A great place to take people after they read this novel is to other personal graphic memoirs about family such as:

Monday, November 21, 2016

RA for All: Call to Action-- Write Better Reviews

This week I will be catching up on short reviews of the books I read on my own this year [ie, wasn't paid to write a timely review].  Using my own advice from all of the lectures I give and what I have learned writing dozens of reviews for Booklist over the last 16 months, I am going to start a new review format.

I thought this was a good time to remind all of you that we ALL need to rethink what information we record about the books we have read [or speed read]. So, I decided to lead by example with today's Call to Action.

My goal is for this change in my reviews to serve you better as you help readers. Think of these altered reviews as a 5 minute speed reading of the book. I am aiming to give you the most useful information you would need to hand sell this title to a potential reader--whether you have read it or not.

I will begin with the author and title and then paste in the publisher's description from Goodreads [with a link]. This will mimic what you would see if you had the book in your hand.  Then I will write a review that is all about who would want to read this book. So whether I liked the book personally will not matter; instead, I am writing the review to the books BEST reader. I have always done that, but this will be more obvious and succinct now.

I will keep the three words that I encourage all of you to do whenever I am asked to stand up in front of people and talk about anything RA related, and of course the readalike suggestions.

I work very hard to provide a different experience from vast majority of book information out there. Why? Because as someone who worked in a public library at the service desk for 15 years, I understand how busy you are. I want you to know about as many different books as possible, but I also want the information you get about those books to be easily transferable to a patron. My blog is here to help you as you help readers. That goal has never changed. 

I hope this tweak in my reviews will help you to help your readers more efficiently and effectively. I also think it will help me actually review more of the books I read.

But most importantly, I hope I will lead by example and encourage all of you to be better about writing down what most matters about the books you have read-- even if it is only the top three adjectives that describe the book. In the end, it will take less time because you will actually record less, but you will gain so much more use out of what you spend the time to record.

Oh, and find a way to do it in the cloud. I suggest Goodreads if you already have an account. But wherever you can search it and retrieve it easily. It doesn't matter if you wrote something down if you can't easily pull it up when a patron is in front of you asking for a good book.

The rest of this week [except Thanksgiving] will be examples of those shorter reviews. I am calling you to action today, but I will answer the call myself tomorrow.

You can always pull up every book I have read and reviewed/written about by using the What I'm Reading tag and the Book Discussion Books tag.

For more Call to Action posts, click here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Watch Me Present-- Sure Bet Bests: Matching Readers With Their “Best” Read

Last year, PLA asked me to present their annual, end of the year, free to members webinar on “Best Books.” You can click here and here to read more about that. [The second link has the slides link too.]

Even though I blew up the old fashioned notion of a “Best Books” program in my presentation, I guess people liked it because PLA asked me back this year. But I refused to do a 2016 version of my 2015 program. If I am asking you to take an hour out of your day, I want to make it worth your time and be something new and inspiring, so last month, I asked you to let me know what kind of “best books” program you want and, more importantly, need in order to help your patrons better.

Well, I listened, crafted a program description, and turned it all into PLA. And now, you can sign up to join me on December 7th for Sure Bet Bests: Matching Readers With Their “Best” Read.

Click here for the full details, program description, and to sign up.

Please note, although this webinar is free, there are limits to how many people can attend. So only sign up if you know you are going to watch it.

Also, you must be a member of PLA to enjoy the webinar. But you can join right now and still make it! [The slides will be available on the blog for all to see from December 7th on.]

“See” you there. Oh, and bring your sure bet ideas to share with all of us.

*Now I just have to make all the slides.....*

Click here for all of the details and to sign-up

Thursday, November 17, 2016

National Book Award Wrap Up with Readalikes

Last night, the National Book Foundation gave out the National Book Awards. These are the first major awards of the year.

Before I get to talking about the winners, I want to remind you that the NBF named a brand new, young Executive Director back in February, Lisa Lucas.  Here is an article with quotes from Lucas from NPR about her appointment.

Her influence at this, our “National” book foundation can be seen in everything the NBF has done since, but I was very struck by the statement she put out just before the awards here
This year, the National Book Awards ceremony comes at a time when the nation has rarely seemed more divided. The bitter presidential campaign exposed a fault line in the United States that will not easily be repaired. And while there's no one simple answer, Lisa Lucas, head of the National Book Foundation, recommends one way to understand the other side: read. 
"My life is small" she says, "and I think books are a way to make your life larger."
Click here to read the full article, but in it she explains how we can learn to understand each other more if we each read something that is not meant for “you."

This is something I have been advocating for on the blog for years, but I am just one librarian, it is so nice to see the person who heads our largest book based foundation remind everyone of this fact.  

Books are a wonderful way to explore the world and open yourself up to new places and ideas. We already know people do this with historical fiction or arm chair travel titles. But we can also do it for today’s current ideas, issues, and diverse points of view. Our job as Readers Advisors is to suggest those titles to people. I will explain below but first.....

...the awards. Here is a photo of the 4 winners.

You can click here to get to the National Book Foundation website. Once there, if you click on each cover, you will get information about that book and an interview with the author.

I would like to say a few things about the winners from an RA standpoint in relation to helping readers.

I will start with the YA winner, March: Book Three. I feel like this win is for the entire trilogy. I liken it to when the final Lord of the Rings movie won the Oscar. It really was to honor the entire series.

Hopefully, you did not need this National Book Award honor to know about March or even to have bought it for your library. This series is already a classic in the format, along with Maus and Persepolis. All three accurately, emotionally, and compellingly recount a trying time in history through the eyes of those who had to live through the struggle. So yes, suggest other books about the Civil Rights movement to people who like March, but also give them books like Maus and Persepolis.

Graphic Journalism is also another offshoot of nonfiction graphic novels. Joe Sacco is one of the best at this. Click here for my 2014 review of his graphic novel, The Great War. In that post I talk about him and his other works as well as give some links to other graphic journalists’ work.

Nonfiction Graphic Novels have been trending for a while, but with this win, they have broken through into the mainstream conversation. What is wonderful about this format in nonfiction is that you can SHOW the emotional impact of history in a way that words alone cannot. It is also a wonderful entry point to history for all ages. Families can read these books together and discuss them.

So please, don’t just suggest Civil Rights books as readalikes for this title now that there is interest.  That is only 1 avenue you can pursue for suggestions. Please remember to suggest other first person accounts of historical struggles for human rights.

Now onto the Fiction winner, Underground Railroad [which I am reading right now]. Again, you should not have needed this award to have ordered this title for your library. Whitehead is a library favorite. All of his books should be on your shelf. Here is my review of Zone One.

In this case, for readalikes I think your best bet is to mostly focus on books that look at slavery from a unique perspective and are also compelling reads. It is hard to write a book that is both compelling and thought provoking, but Whitehead manages to do that with every book he writes. 

The book I think would be most interesting to fans of Underground Railroad is The Known World by Edward P Jones.  You can click here to read my review which also includes my list of four other titles that take a "different look at the history of slavery" in America.

I would also suggest two titles that have come out since I wrote that review but would fit into that list easily:

Now to take the suggestions further outside the box. Here are some fiction titles that are compelling and thought provoking about other struggles for freedom. [all links go to my reviews with even more readalike options]:

Finally, and to segue-way into the nonfiction winner, Stamped from the Beginning is also an excellent readalike for Underground Railroad.

Stamped From the Beginning takes a scholarly and in depth look at racism in America. It is remarkable in how the author, Ibram X. Kendi takes an emotionally charged issue and breaks it down to a matter of fact argument, yet still presents the message in a compelling and accessible package.

A good companion book would be last year’s Nonfiction winner, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can read my review of that title with many readalike options here.

But, I also immediately thought of pairing this title with White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg. 

My point here is the same one I have been making throughout this entire post and as Ms. Lucas points out in her statements I linked to way back at the beginning of this post. Yes, you can pair this title with other books about racial injustice here in America, but you cannot forget about other titles that deal with either the other side of the equation OR that look at similar larger issues.
Please if you learn NOTHING else from me ever it needs to be this-- think about your readalike suggestions from a larger, more big picture, perspective. WHY someone likes a book goes WAY BEYOND it’s subject headings and specific plot points.  And, to take this one step further, try to give a FULL PICTURE view by offering titles on all sides of an issue, not just the same side as the book you are trying to match. Again, as Lucas said, pair the book that is NOT for you with the one that is. 
[I remind myself of the importance of this as I struggle through watching Fox News at least once a day. I am doing it to understand the full picture.]

Back to the awards ceremony. They also honored the 5 Under 35 Winners last night [picture below]. You can go here for the NBF’s 5 Under 35 page which also has easy links to the list of designees from every year going back to 2006! I took a little time to peruse some of the older winners.  It was quite interesting. Some are household names now, while others are still a bit obscure, but all make for a good suggestion to your patrons looking for “award winning” fiction.

Finally, don’t forget to use the backlist of all award winners and the long lists from this year and previous years. These lists are an easy go-to option for helping readers that want “good books” and proven winners while they are waiting on the hold list for the current winners. You can use this link to get all of the information easily. [The previous years are accessible in the left gutter.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I'm Reading: Short Stories Edition

I have two reviews of collections in the current issue of Booklist to share with you.

  Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror.

Datlow, Ellen (editor).

Nov. 2016. 432p. Tachyon, paperback, $16.95 (9781616962326)
REVIEW.  First published November 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Widely considered the best editor in the horror community, Ellen Datlow is without peer, and with this collection readers are in for a treat because Datlow has chosen to collect the twenty-four stories that she has most enjoyed from 2005-2015. Building off her indispensable Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which covered the years 1985-2005, this new volume is aided greatly by the fact that the last decade has been a fertile one for the genre with the emergence of incredible new voices and the decision by non-genre writers to give horror a try. Arranged in chronological order by year of publication, these tales represent the breadth of horror from psychologically chilling to all out terrorizing, and feature just about every type of monster or ghost imaginable. As a result of this range, however, not every reader will like every story they encounter, but that is not this book’s goal. Rather it should be taken as an exemplary and accurate representation of what readers can expect from horror, in general, today in one concise volume. Of particular note are the stories by rising stars Laird Barron and Stephen Graham Jones, Australian Kaaron Warren, and a refreshingly original entry into the crowded field of zombie stories by award-winning, literary fiction author Dan Chaon. This volume is not only the perfect discovery tool for readers looking for the very best of today’s horror, but also, it should be used as a collection development tool by staff.

Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough how good this book is to add to EVERY library collection. Readers will love it and staff can and should use it to understand the genre as it is right now. I am not alone giving this book a star, every major review journal agrees with me. It is a classic that will stay on library shelves for years.

Three Words That Describe This Book: showcase, unsettling, range of gore

Readalikes: This one is easy, if you like a story, read more by that author. Here is the full table of contents.

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing.

Beukes, Lauren (author).

Nov. 2016. 288p. Tachyon, paperback, $15.95 (9781616962401)
REVIEW.  First published November 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Beukes has garnered much attention for her intricately plotted, creepy and compelling psychological fiction, and here she turns her menacing eye to 26 short pieces of mostly fiction. The works here are varied in topic and even form- from flash fiction, to Tweets, to more traditional short stories- but all are tantalizing, dark, and thought provoking. Particularly strong are the dystopian stories, such as, “Slipping,” “The Green” and “Pop Tarts” that hit uncomfortably close to home. In the five nonfiction essays, Beukes opens up about the stories behind work and offers up a beautiful love letter to her daughter. Interestingly, the volume also prominently features her home of South Africa as an inspiration, setting, and even a bit of a character at times; there is also a much needed glossary of South African terms included at the end. The collection stands as a testament to her technical skill and original voice, but it may leave readers impatient for her next novel. A great option for fans of her writing for sure, but it is also a good suggestion for readers of other atmospheric and complex tales like those written Gillian Flynn, Lauren Groff, and Karen Russell.

Further Appeal: This is a slim volume. It has nonfiction too. I am not sure where libraries are going to put it, but Beukes is a popular author and there will be demand for this title. [Here is my review of The Shining Girls.]

You will have requests for this title by people who only want it because of the author. Please use my review to help you book talk it to those patrons so that they know what there are getting. If readers know ahead of time that this is an unconventional volume, they will not be disappointed. Without that knowledge, they may be less happy. It's a solid collection, don't get me wrong, but it is nontraditional.

Three Words That Describe This Book: offbeat, disturbing, atmospheric

Readalikes: To the list of authors in the review, I would also add Elizabeth McCracken and Keith Donohue. By the way, I have read and reviewed multiple books by all five of the readalike authors, so a quick search of their names using my blog's search box in the top left corner will get you even more information.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

RA for All Roadshow: ARRT Presents- RA Hacks

Click here for slides
This morning I will be presenting as part of the ARRT RA Hacks Program. To your left is the link for slide access.

But I am only a part of this morning of fast paced training, and every single one of you will have a chance to gain knowledge from this event, no matter where you live.

Let me explain.

The day begins with my presentation about RA basics and then moves on to a presentation by the ILA and ARRT RA Librarians of the year, Mike and Tracy speaking about social media. Click here for the specifics.

But after we present, the entire group will have an opportunity to participate in unconference style 15 minute break out sessions on the topics of:
  • In Person RA
  • Merchandising / Displays
  • Cross-collection RA
  • Training (led by me)
  • Social Media / Future of RA
Since I am a break-out leader, I thought I would share a few of the behind the scenes directions that I got about what will be happening in these sessions.

First, each breakout group will begin with a short introduction on the topic including the following:

  • What are the core goals and concepts in this area
  • (Optional) 1-2 of the best hacks you’ve heard for the topic
  • Mention of where in the room your session will be. We will show you your area when you arrive on Tuesday morning.

Second, us facilitators are going to manage the discussions that happen.  We want to focus on having the participants share their hacks (ie, tips and tricks) or ask about ones they have heard about and want to try.  The goal is for us to get as many ideas as possible written down from this fast paced conversation.

Now, I bet some of you readers who live very far away are starting to get angry at me for bragging about how much fun and learning we are all going to have without you this morning. But don't worry, I promised above that every single one of you reading this can participate and here is how.

The program organizers are going to gather all of the facilitators' note cards and make a huge list of hacks for each of the five topic areas above, and it will be available on the ARRT webpage for everyone to see. This makes me very excited too as I will be managing the "Training" breakout table the entire time and will not be able to move around. So in this case, I am in the same boat as many of you reading this in that I cannot even fully participate.

My hope is not only that this program allows us to create a useful list of "Hacks" that the entire RA community can share, but that it also inspires others to host a program like this. We have local RA practitioners coming together to share ideas. It is not costing us very much money-- but it has taken a lot of time in planning by the organizers-- but I think we will reap huge learning and networking benefits; benefits that will help leisure readers in Northern IL and all over the country. 

And third, you can always see what is happening during any ARRT program as we are very good about live tweeting using the same hashtag o matter the program-- #arrtreads.

I'll make sure to alert you, my readers, when the notes are ready. But while you wait, take a quick peak at my Top 5 RA Hacks. The slides have lots of links. All of the pictures link somewhere and there are clear, text links.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Call to Action: Participate!

Last week's Call to Action asked you to Listen. This week, we move forward a step as I ask you to Participate.

When I first entered the world of RA Service in the summer of 2000, it was very hard to participate in the larger world of serving leisure readers.  I could not get to conferences unless they were local, there were no webinars, and networking resources like Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter were not there for RA focused librarians to use to help patrons or even each other.

Sixteen years later, being able to communicate with our fellow library workers is so easy that the number of choices at our disposal are overwhelming. This is also problematic because the noise coming from hundreds of different inputs (social media, email newsletters, webinars...) makes it hard to focus on what we really need to know to help the patrons in our communities.

So I am going to try to help today. I want to encourage you to find a way...just 1 way...that you want to participate in the larger RA community. Oh, and saying you will read this blog doesn't count because you are already doing that. Plus, reading my blog is great to help you focus on your skills and learn about trends and resources, but you are passive in that endeavor. I am the active one in this relationship.  I am asking you all to take ONE new active role in adding to our shared community.

If each person who read this commits to participating in 1 small way, ALL of us benefit because once we take an active role in participating together as a community to help all of our leisure readers, we have created even more resources for all of use to use and share.

I love that many of you read this blog and share with me how it has helped you to serve your leisure readers better, but I should not be the only one hearing about your successes. Get out there and spread your knowledge with others. Find a way to share the fantastic things you are doing with everyone else. We all benefit when we hear from as many voices as possible, when we see examples of wonderful RA service from libraries big and small, rural and city, and when we share our successes and failures with each other because all of us share the same goal-- serving our leisure readers.

When we actively participate in our profession we help ourselves and each other.

Feeling overwhelmed about starting still? Don't worry, I have a suggestion that every single one of you can do to begin. It comes from Katelyn Patterson. I will let her explain first and then I will add a few more thoughts to encourage you. Take it away Katelyn:
Thanks to Becky for letting us share about our upcoming #publibchat!  
#Publibchat is a brand new monthly Twitter chat for folks in public libraries. Current moderators are Katelyn Patterson (@radicalibrarian) and Elizabeth McKinstry (@wrk2lib). Our first chat in October was about inclusive holiday programming and you can find the storify for that here. 
Our second chat is coming up on Thursday, November 17th and we are going to be discussing our favorite resources for readers' advisory. We hope that Becky and her readership will join and share their expertise with others!  
#Publibchat is a forum for us to come together and share ideas. Though Elizabeth and I may not be experts in RA or any of the topics that we may discuss during #publibchat, we will have a round up of resources to share. And we hope to learn from others, too. 
Please join us next Thursday, November 17th for by following the hashtag #publibchat!  
Thursday Nov 179pm ET / 8 CT / 7 MT / 6 PT
You can follow our @publibchat twitter account for updates on scheduled chats. 
You can also see the questions in advance, and prior topic chat logs here at www.publibchat.org
We look forward to chatting with you!
Thanks for the invite Katelyn. 

Now, RA for All readers, what I want out of you whether you are on Twitter or not is to use her links above to follow the hashtag and see what resources come up in the conversation, see what people are sharing and find a place where you can begin participating. 

If you are on Twitter, you can start by joining the live chat as it happens. Unfortunately my son has a volleyball game during that time, so I will not be there, but I will check out the conversation after the fact. So no excuses from any of you that you are busy. As Katelyn mentions they also put it all on their website so you never even have to go to Twitter. 

The key is to identify 1 way you can share what you are doing with others as well as for you learn from everyone else. Maybe this Twitter chat will help you, maybe not. But at least you are exploring options.

Find a way to be on both sides of the conversation about serving leisure readers. We all stand to benefit from everyone's active participation.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Resource Alert: The Hawaii Project

Last month I had this "Resource Alert" post touting YourNextRead for visual book discovery. I received a lot of positive feedback from people who gave it a try.

But, I also received an email from Mark, a developer of a different book discovery site, The Hawaii Project. From that email:
"I've always been frustrated by online book discovery services as they are so unpersonalized, recommending me books that have nothing to do with my interests or reading habits. I built something called The Hawaii Project, a personalized book discovery engine. It scans about 1000 high quality sources that write about books (everything from something like The New York Times or The Guardian down to niche blogs about medieval history or espionage fiction), figures out what books the tastemakers are writing about, then personalizes it to each reader based on their interests and reading history. Since it is scanning the web, it can also bring interesting articles and content to your attention as well as just recommending books, and it always topical because it’s keeping track of what’s going on *now*. Kind of like a personalized Google News for books."
You can go here to learn more about The Hawaii Project and how they donate 10% of their proceeds to literary charities. But here are two screen shots to give you an idea of what you will find there.

I have played around with it a bit and a few of my favorite things so far are:

I suggest you use it three ways.  First, just click through and start looking around without even signing up. Second, sign up to follow some of your library's most popular authors and see how it helps you serve your patrons. And third, get some of your super patrons to give it a try, use it, and come back to you with their honest thoughts

In general, I love assigning my super patrons with jobs to read books for me or check out a resource. They are always so flattered to be asked, they have no problem being brutally honest with you, and it gives me a different, non professional perspective on whatever I assigned them.  Plus, let's be honest, they have more time to do a more comprehensive job.

If you want to contact Mark, he has been doing research into RA service and is fascinated by it. Click here and scroll down to drop him a line. He really wants to hear from us.

We cannot have to many places to look for book suggestions and this one has a unique focus, so give it a try.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

ARRT Book Club Study January 2017 Announcement

From the ARRT Book Club Study website:

Please join us for a discussion of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi led by Emily Vinci:

From the prizewinning author of Mr. Fox, the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.

In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.

A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.

Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time. (From the publisher.)

Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist: 2014
New York Times Notable Book: 2014
International Dublin Literary Award Nominee: 2016

The discussion will be held:
Thursday, January 12, 2017
2-4 pm
RSVP to Emily Vinci: evinci@stdl.org

Please arrange to obtain your own copy of the book for the discussion

As always, discussion of the book includes a nuts-and-bolts session devoted to sharing practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book discussion leaders.

The Leadership Topic, led by Becky Spratford, will be about managing the group dynamic during book discussions. Becky will present some tips and tricks for making the experience of the discussion better. Please come ready to share your group dynamic issues, successes, and failures.

And don't forget, while the discussion itself is only open to members of ARRT, the notes on both the discussion of the book, and the leadership topic will be available freely and openly on the web page shortly after the discussion date.

We have an archive of past discussion notes here and you can access notes for every discussion I have ever led [since 2007!] using the book discussion books link here on RA for All.

On a side note, those posts are my most accessed posts, by far, on this site. I am always happy to see that my older notes are helping library workers lead a discussion of that book now. Honestly, being there to help you have better book discussions makes all of the work I put into this blog worth it. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reading Without Walls Challenge

The above screen shot is from author and graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang’s site where he has been challenging everyone to Read Without Walls.  Click here to read the full post.

Now readers of this blog know that I have been advocating to read this way for years- even requiring my library school students to read a “multicultural" or LGBTQ every single semester as far back as 2004. But as I have also commented on here and here recently, not everyone agrees with me.

So let’s move away from why you need to to this to improve your skills. Let’s talk about how we can promote this challenge for our patrons. Libraries are a safe space where the entire community can gather and express themselves.  We need to be there to help our patrons through tough days.

No matter how you feel today, or tomorrow, or next week, we are still here to provide answers, clarity, or even just distraction to our patrons. This challenge can do all of that at once.

Post the challenge in your buildings, put it on your websites, and encourage everyone to participate.

That’s all I have for today.