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, January 31, 2018

Call to Action: Diversifying Your Readalike Lists

Here is a very good question I received from a library I have worked with in the past. I am sharing it with all of you because 1) it is an excellent question, 2) the process of finding her an answer itself  was educational, and 30 I need your help!
Hi Becky, Rachel from New Glarus Public Library here. I have a question. I am trying to update my read-alike lists with more diverse authors and I am struggling to find any resources that can connect me. Ideally, I want ANYTHING that can give me some similar suggestions--like, what is suggested for POC or LGBTQIA authors if I like Dan Brown or Nancy Atherton, for example? Other than searching a title, reading all about the book, and then racking my brain to decide what they sound similar to; do you know of a better way? Even Goodreads doesn't seem to have much in the way of read alike suggestions for POC authors. Any links or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!
First of all- Yay Rachel for realizing her readalike lists need diverse options. But unfortunately, this reminded me that while the movement to include diverse voices in our library collections and suggestions has made great strides in the last few years, her point is a HUGE problem because it’s not just Rachel who needs to diversify her realizes lists...it’s every single one of us.

Let me explain. Right now there are many diverse lists of adult reading options out there. BUT, and this is a big BUT, they are by “diverse” group, not arranged as readalikes. So for example, you can find huge lists with cross genre reading options of African American titles or LGBTQ or disability or-- insert the marginalized category here. Each list has many types of books, with different appeals and different genres. However, the lists are not doing the work of diversifying our reading as well as they could because these lists still keep those groups outside of the “normal lists.” And, you cannot in any way use them as readalike options for authors. What Rachel describes above, is literally what you have to do to include diverse options in your Dan Brown readalike list.

Second, NGPL is a wonderful library [I have been there, I know] but they are also a tiny, 1 room place in southern Wisconsin. Why is this the library that is asking me for help? Wy aren’t their larger libraries tackling this topic. When I went to some of the bigger, better known libraries with vast readalike lists on their websites, I fond that there’s too were white and straight. Yes they have lists of culturally diverse authors as mentioned above, but these authors are not incorporated into the readalikes for a specific author. Again, they are operated by their category of diversity. Sigh.

If the larger library systems, from cities where there are more diverse populations are not doing this, who is? We all need to look at our popular authors lists-- most of whom are very white-- and start adding diverse choices in there. But there are NO RESOURCES to help us do this. And until we diversify the readalike lists themselves, we are not really solving the lack of diverse reading options problem.

I have been working on Rachel’s question off and on for a few days now and I have a partial solution and also a plea-- a Call to Action-- for all of us to help make Rachel’s desire to diversify her readalike lists an easy request. I am going to share some of my process with you to help you understand the problem and the possible solutions.

Okay let’s start with narrowing down diverse options by more than the “category” of the diversity because let me tell you, there are all kinds of problems with that. First, for example, African American author is not enough of an appeal factor to make a readalike. But genre can be very helpful to start narrowing down if someone would enjoy a book.

Thankfully, just about every genre has a resource which includes lists of marginalized voices where you can look for books in a genre. WOC Romance is one of the best because it breaks everything down further by subgenre and other appeal factors. Also Stop You’re Killing Me has a diversity index for mystery authors. The Seers Table from the Horror Writers association is not as organized as the other two I have mentioned, but they have a lot more information on each author they highlight; another writer introduces the author being featured with a short piece on his or her writing style that really lets you know what type of reader that author would appeal to.

That is a start for a few genres; you can go search out more yourself. But, still that does not help you to get readalikes-- just people in that same genre. And, Rachel specifically mentions Dan Brown and let me tell you, the thriller resources are the worst at diversifying because the publishing landscape for this genre is very white and male and heterosexual.

I know that NoveList has added appeal factors to their “character” search field that denote all areas of diversity; however, I did some poking around and they are not adding it to ALL of their diverse options. For example, Victor LaValle has no mention of the fact that his works actively look at the African American experience in the appeal search areas. Neither does Colson Whitehead?!?! But even more frustrating, I tried to use the "appeal mixer"  in order to choose their advertised, “culturally diverse” tag for character in conjunction with other appeals to create a readalike for the feel of Dan Brown, but alas, “culturally” diverse cannot be used here-- it’s not even an option. I suspect it is because not enough people are tagged with this term yet-- as I just noted.

It is a vicious circle and none of us are helping to break the circle. It was here that I took a 2 days break from this question because I was so frustrated.

Continuing with my research, if you look up Dan Brown in NoveList you only get white people as readalikes options. The same thing happens on Goodreads. Although I should do a quick aside here to explain the best way to get readalikes for an author on Goodreads. Don’t search in Goodreads. Rather do a Google search for “Goodreads authors similar to ___________.” That will pull it right up.

The Goodreads thing surprised me because overall Goodreads lists tend to be more diverse than other resources, since they are crowd sourced by actual readers.

I feel like Debbie Downer with this post, but here is a bit of a silver lining. If you can find a diverse author to begin with and search that person, you will get more diverse offerings. So let’s take one of the most popular SF/F authors right now, N. K. Jemisin. Here is the link to authors who are similar to her via Goodreads.  Ahh, men, women, people of color.

The problem here is we need a starting point, which brings us back to the lists of diverse authors by their diverse category. But if we use those to find just 1 readalike author for an author, we can then use the resources to diversify the entire list. We can search for readalikes and similar authors to that 1 title or author.

Finally, if you are looking for the faster way to find a diverse list you can use while you diversify your old lists, try Book Riot. They have lots of  lists and they always make sure their offerings are diverse- it is part of their mission. Use their wide range of lists for just about any type of reader you could think of to find options to diversify your current lists. For example, under Mystery/Thriller, I found this list of 25 Cozy Mysteries series and it includes diverse options. Use it as a resource for your cozy authors like Atherton, mentioned by Rachel above.

In summary, it can be done, and done a little easier than with what Rachel was doing, but it’s still not as easy as it should be. So what we need is for all of you to get to it. That’s right, I am calling each of you to action. If each of my readers only makes 1 diverse readalike list for a white, straight, popular author, well then we would have thousands of lists floating around out there. Make them, post them to your websites, and let’s start truly diversifying our options for our readers.

I promise to do a few horror ones on the horror blog in the coming days to help. See I am calling myself to action. I will work on diverse readalike lists for Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Paul Tremblay to start. By the way, by diverse, I do not mean I am ignoring all white people. I mean I will have a mix of options-- you know truly diverse.

Now let’s not only get fired up to make these lists, but in general, let’s use this post to remind ourselves that all of our displays and all of our readalike lists need to reflect the myriad of human experiences out there, not just the one that is currently deemed “normative.” After you make a list or a display on any topic, give it a once over and make sure you have included as diverse a list of voices as possible.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ALA Midwinter Meetings Galley Guide Courtesy of LJ

ALA’s Midwinter Meeting are right about the corner. And with this conference comes all of the excitement of the librarian choices for book awards.  [Expect 2/12 on this blog to be devoted to this topic.]

But before we have any major library conference, Library Journal’s Barbara Hoffert has us all covered with her great Galley Guides.  Midwinter 2018 is no exception.  Here is her Galley Guide for the meeting.

As I have mentioned many times before, but most recently here, whether or not you are present at the conference in question, these galley guides can help you immensely.  I will not repeat myself as to why. You can go here and learn.

For now, take a look at the current Galley Guide, and especially this post by me on how to use it to help patrons right away. Seriously, even though many of these books aren’t coming out for a while, I have proven tips and tricks on how to make this preview work for you today!

Plus it is just fun to preview all of the info about the books that will be coming out. Don’t forget, even if you are not going to Denver, you can still request galleys of all of these titles via NetGalley and Edelweiss to nominate them for Library Reads. Click here for details on how to do that. You need not be a “Librarian,” you just have to work at a library.

Monday, January 29, 2018

What I’m Reading: Savage Woods, Plus Bonus News You Can Use

TodayI have a review of a book that came out last Fall that is a NOT TO MISS option for fans of supernatural thrillers with a strong female protagonists- otherwise known as dozens of your regular patrons.

The book is Savage Woods by Mary SanGiovanni and before I get to the review, I wanted to share a few things about SanGiovanni that are relevant to you the average public library worker- some of which provide you with CE opportunities [both in person and virtual].
  1. She publishes with Kensington Books, a smaller publisher with a huge library foothold. You may only know them for their romance and thrillers, but click here to see their [growing] horror line. SanGiovanni is under contract for a few more novels with them, including a series-- which we know in library land is music to many of our patrons ears.
  2. SanGiovanni has been writing Lovercraftian, cosmic horror since the early 2000s. She has won awards and critical acclaim, she’s even been called “The Queen of Cosmic Horror.” She was doing this well before the current Lovecraftian revolution and had to deal with the sexism in the subgenre way before those who Lovecraft disparaged in his own life started outright challenging him, his fans, and his work. [For more on that trend click here for my booktalk on the topic.]
  3. Speaking of her place in the cosmic horror world, SanGiovanni just launched a new podcast where she talks about cosmic horror, what it is, why it is appealing to readers, and its history. It is called Cosmic Shenanigans. This is a must listen for all library workers because cosmic horror is exploding right now and most of us don’t understand it fully. In the first episode SanGiovanni talks about the characteristics of the subgenre. She said something during that 30 minute episode that really stuck with me. Paraphrasing her-- cosmic horror’s appeal is that there is something out there in the universe that is so huge and evil that we are simply its playthings. We are so insignificant and that is terrifying. I never thought of the subgenre's appeal that way, but it completely opens me up to suggesting it to a wider range of readers now.
  4. SanGiovanni and Thunderstorm Books recently announced here [36 minute mark] that she will have an imprint of special edition horror titles called “Tempest.” The Tempest imprint will be limited edition novellas by female horror authors that SanGiovanni hand picks. Now I know that libraries do not buy limited edition titles, but many of Thunderstorm’s limited edition original books get picked up by other publishers in paperback and go one to be quite popular [click here for a recent example]. Authors that SanGiovanni identifies, will become names we are going to need to know going forward. She promises to gather women and diverse ones at that. I can’t wait.
  5. Speaking of women in horror, Mary has a famous and eloquent essay about what it means to be a woman in horror. She has given me permission to post it before. Here is the link.
  6. For all of the reasons above and because SanGiovanni has “been there done that" in horror publishing, I asked her to moderate a panel a StokerCon 2018 featuring new authors that I wanted library workers to know about. I picked the authors, but SanGiovanni graciously and eagerly agreed to moderate. She will be able to share her wisdom with these new authors [3 out of 4 are women because women writing horror is one of the biggest trends in the genre right now] and she is well equipped to know what questions to ask these young writers.

So thats why you all need to know about Mary SanGiovanni and what you can learn from her knowledge. Below is a librarian focused review of Savage Woods. Feel free to borrow it to booktalk the title to potential readers. Call your Kensington rep to make sure you get all of her books too.

The Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey is a known haunted place. Sightings of ghosts, beasts, and creatures have been documented by visitors for generations. But put this deeply haunted wood in the hands of Bram Stoker nominated horror author and NJ native Mary SanGiovanni’s hands and the fear reaches out from between the trees and grabs hold of the reader. Savage Woods [Kensington 2017] opens in a Lovecraftian style, with the unveiling of the ancient spirits that rule a particular 600 acre section of these woods known as Nilhollow. This area of the Pine Barrens is avoided by locals who know better, but when Julia is run off the road by her abusive ex and escapes into the woods, the police are forced to enter, against their better judgement, to try to find her. What follows is a terrifying and gripping thriller, a race through the woods, where the good guys are forced to battle evils both human and supernatural. There is plenty of fast paced action, edge of your seat suspense, and awesome bloody death and dismemberment scenes, but there is also a surprising beauty in the language used to describe the forest. The trees become a character here, in fact, the wood itself maybe the most compelling, complex, and intriguing character in the novel. Readers will root for Julia to find safety, they will hang on the twists and turns of the plot, but this story will stay with them after it is all over because of the trees. Readers seeking out bloody tales of ancient evil where the woods come into play will be happy you pointed them in SanGiovanni’s direction as will current fans of titles like Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz or The Devil Crept In by Ania Alhborn.

Further Appeal: SanGiovanni is the reigning queen of cosmic horror. Her deep affection for and skill for crafting tales in the tradition of this type of horror, as is most associated with Lovecraft, is clear here. That is a huge appeal of the book. It is cosmic horror but from a female pov. Not only will cosmic horror fans like it, but I think you can introduce female readers to this subgenre with this novel. They would like cosmic horror if they knew more about it than the “bro” culture who have been running it for decades have allowed to be put out there. Authors like SanGiovanni, LaValle and the others I mention in this booktalk, are a great place to start.

Also, horror set in the woods, where the woods themselves bring the fear is a huge appeal factor. There are a number of books where this trope is used. Even in books where the woods are not the focus, the woods are creepy. Send horror fans who feel the fear in the trees to this book ASAP.

The female driven, suspense with supernatural horror, strong characters, and a decent amount of gore aspects will be very popular appeal match areas here.

Three Words That Describe This Book: suspense, cosmic horror, fast paced

Readalikes: I mention two recent titles above, but horror set in the woods, is a huge appeal factor which you can match for more readlaikes.

Also, don’t underestimate the appeal here for people who want a strong female protagonist with an intensely suspenseful thriller storyline, but are sick and tired of the “girl” books. They need the suspense, blood, and action up about 4 notches but without sacrificing the strong characters and solid writing. Obviously they have to be okay with the cosmic horror frame, but fans of intense female led thrillers like those by Lisa Jackson, Sarah Pinborough, and Nicci French should give SanGiovanni a try.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Recap: Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books for Adults 2017

Yesterday afternoon I attended this 100% free program put on by Chicago Public Library, emceed by Stephen Sposato, Manager of the Content Curation department at CPL. This is the department that oversees the centralized selection of materials for the nearly 80 branches in the system and heads up readers’ advisory, leading internal training and focusing on features for the website (staff picks, blogs, lists, etc.). As Stephen has been quoted here before, "In a nutshell, our department is all about selecting and promoting engaging and relevant content for a diverse and sophisticated city."

Best of the Best is a CPL brand that goes back to the 19080s on the Children’s side of things, but Stephen worked with Andrew Medlar, Assistant Chief, Technology, Content and Innovation a few years ago to get it up and going for adults too. 

The list was announced back at the end of 2017 to much fanfare, but yesterday, Stephen and his team of adult librarians from all over the system came together to celebrate the stories that our neighbors crave and to encourage these titles to be shared throughout the CPL system and across the region.

The event was meant to educate as many CPL staff from across the system as possible about these titles and how to suggest them to readers, but they also welcomed anyone from any library in the area who could make it. I jumped at the chance to hang out and listen to others talk books all afternoon.

As Stephen said, “It’s Readers' Advisory Heaven.” After attending, I concur.

Before they began sharing the books with everyone assembled, Stephen presented the criteria they used to put books on the Best of the Best List. The titles must have:
  • Strong publisher commitment behind them- this means the titles will be available in enough numbers that CPL could easily add them to their collections.
  • Critical Support
  • Audience Response-- do readers actually like them, place holds, give good scores on Goodreads?
  • Staff response-- Can our staff engage with these books?
But those criteria are fairly standard. CPL doesn’t want this lis to mimic all the other best lists out there. They want it to reflect Chicago and its people. So to the end, here are a few more criteria they used:
  • Local relevance
  • Diversity of voices and subjects- to reflect the diversity of our city
  • Range of literacy levels- not only high brow titles
  • Staff Recommendations- staff from all over the system can suggest books to be considered for the list based on their personal reading and interaction with patrons from their local branches.
Stephen also made a “side note” about the "Top 10” designated titles. They do get the most attention so CPL makes sure that those “Top 10” as a whole represent the breadth of the entire list. Also these are the only titles which there are copies at every single branch.

Then Stephen reminded the group that this list is a wonderful RA tool but it is not the be all and end all of titles you can suggest. He continued:
  • RA is about helping your patrons find reading that they will enjoy. This list is a good place to start, but it’s okay if none of these books fit the reader in front of you.
  • It’s not only forcing on them what we think is the best. This is a guide to some titles that the staff has worked hard to gather as “best” options.
  • This list is great for displays in branches, online, and as a resource at the desk
In these opening comments I loved how Stephen not only explained what the criteria were, but also reminded everyone gathered that the CPL staff as a whole, not just his department, made this best list. It truly was a CPL proper list, not just a few people at CPL list. This was further reflected in how the books were presented, as staff were called up to read the annotations they wrote for the book. Those who couldn’t be there had their annotations read by someone else, but the credit was given to the person [and their branch] who did the work.

You can click here for the full Best of the Best list, and if you go into the specific books, you can see those annotations for yourself.

From my standpoint as an audience member, I loved hearing all of the different book talks. Each contributor had a different voice and shared different aspects of the book than I might have. I loved hearing about the books I hadn’t read, or even heard of, in some case, but I also learned the most from the annotations of the books I did know about or had read. I heard a different version of those books, information that will help me help more readers.

Also, it was such a treat to hear about backlist titles-- books that are already out. In our line of work we spend so much time hearing publishers tell us about the books that are about to come, but rarely do we get to go back and talk about the books that were. More people should do this. What a great continuing education opportunity. It nourishes our book loving souls, yes, but talking about books that are out and have proven themselves through the criteria above means that we can actually hand these to patrons right now...not in 3 months. It makes so much sense, yet it is rarely done.

Also, the CE opportunities for the staff were on full display here too. You could see that this entire process of choosing and talking about the “best of the best” was a learning experience for all staff who were involved. They were energized to share these titles and the people in the audience were excited to see their coworkers sharing their knowledge. Everyone was learning from each other, everyone participated in some way, and everyone can use the knowledge as they go back to their branches.  It was CE that was engaging, fun and useful. Yay.

One last thing before I get to the titles themselves. While the official CPL Best of the Best Books 2017-Adults as seen here is in simple alphabetical order by title, Stephen wanted to present them in a way that would make the list easier to use with patrons. As he said he wanted to jumble the books up to “get them talking to each other.” 

So to that end, he grouped the books into the categories you will see below. They are not traditional library/book genres. And, fiction and nonfiction are put together in every category except the first one.

I have to say, this was my favorite thing about the entire day. It made the presentation more engaging and the book talks more useful because we were all forced to consider each title from a different angle than we might have in more traditional fiction vs nonfiction vs genre splits. It broke down the walls we construct between books and forced us all to think about the appeal before worrying about the classification. The appeal of the story maters more than the plot of genre. We know this, but we get hung up on classifications. Thanks Stephen for helping us to remember that.

Below I have listed the books from the overall list but here they are in the categories from the presentation. Any links you see are to my reviews where appropriate. [Ed note, as of 1/26 there are a few I have read or am reading but for which I do not have a review up yet; I will go back and add them.]

Fantasy & Romance: These categories are in the classical sense. These books are about the surreal, Gothic, and some are romantic. This is also the only category where every book is fiction:
  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
  • Reincarnation Blues by Michael Moore
  • Grief Cottage by Gail Goodwin
  • Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
  • An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  • Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Stephen also gave readalikes for each category with even more options. He will make them accessible for the staff to use at the desk. One that caught my eye, In The Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson. This is a wonderful addition to the list for the staff as they work with patrons.

Science and Technology: Fiction and Nonfiction 
  • Borne by Jeff Vandermeer 
  • Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt 
  • Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    • Stephen notes this is a trend- slim books about “big topics” for adults
  • Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
  • Everybody Lies: Big Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  • Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
Readalikes-- Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi caught my eye here.

History: again both fiction and nonfiction. I love this category the most. These books are all over the map in topic, not to mention that some are fiction and some are nonfiction, but all are history based. When you look at the list as a whole its breadth and usefulness to suggest a wide range of titles to patrons is awesome. Every category made me feel this elation, but in particular this one was my favorite.
  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
  • What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women & the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro
  • Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
  • Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York by Francis Spufford
  • City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
    • Becky note-- I love that this one is under “History” and not “Fantasy”
  • Days Without End: A Novel by Sebastian Barry
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
  • The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Human Acts  by Han Kang
  • Alone: Britain, Churchill, and Dunkirk: Defeat Into Victory by Michael Korda
    • Great for people interested in the Oscars right now-- Dunkirk and Darkest Hour
  • Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  • Hue 1968: A Turning Point fo the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
    • long and exhaustive, tough at times, but perfect for your military buffs
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
    • Next book coming out soon
  • The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
    • A doorstopper, but if you want to understand what is going on in Russia right now, read this. Demanding yet accessible.
  • Autumn by Ali Smith
  • American War by Omar El Akkad
    • Not history but going into future- possible history?
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young
Crime & Thrillers
  • The Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  • The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Dry by Jane Harper
    • Sequel coming soon!
  • The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine
  • The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  • Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
  • Defectors by Joseph Kanon
  • A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre
  • The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair
  • The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Life Stories
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack
    • slim, but written as only 1 sentence with no punctuation-- but there is plot- life reflection
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
  • Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson
    • pre-urban lit writer with a touch of pulp fiction
    • Important to separate the artist from the art. He was not a good person.
  • Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson
  • Grant by Ron Chernow
  • Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls
  • Ali: A Life by Jonathan Big
  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs
  • The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy
  • We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby
  • We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
  • The Wrong Ways to Save Your Life: Essays by Megan Stielstra
    • Chicago
  • Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay
Social Issues
  • Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogymy, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore
    • Coming to CPL 1/30 at 6pm
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Becoming Ms. Burton by Susan Burton
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregates America by Richard Rothstein
  • Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
    • Afro-futurism, poetry, Chicago-- major new voice
  • Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
  • Power by Naomi Alderman
  • Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Muchado
  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Kevin
  • Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen
    • It drew a lot of holds, which is uncommon for a foreign policy book but staff took notice and read it because patrons liked it
  • Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century by Jessica Bruder
  • Gilded Cage by Vic James
    • Sequel coming soon
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Hostage by Guy Delisle
    • NF, GN
  • Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli
    • trend: like political pamphlets from American Revolution; based on the form she had to help children immigrants from Mexico answer
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Family & Community
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
    • explores heavy themes with a light and graceful tread
  • An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and a Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn
  • You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie
  • Five-Carot Soul by James McBride
  • What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
  • The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott
  • This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  • Setting Free the Kites by Alex George
  • Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
  • Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller
  • Bear Town by Fredrik Backman
  • A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
    • novel of several generations of an African American family
  • The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Sneak Peek for 2018: Stephen put some covers on screen quickly, but not to preview them, more to just get the staff familiar with the titles and the covers so that when they see them in the coming months, the books will be a little familiar.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Junot Diaz’s Personal Plea to “Decolonize” the Shelves and Becky’s Demand That You Start NOW!

Thanks to my daily reading of Shelf Awareness, I was altered to an amazing and heartfelt speech by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Diaz.

Below is the summary of what he said via Shel Awareness with the link to watch the entire speech, but after that I have some comments that are specific to you as you work at your library.
#Wi13: Junot Díaz on 'Decolonizing the Shelves'

Junot Díaz
Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., introduced Wednesday's Wi13 Breakfast Keynote speaker, "beloved novelist" and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz. Islandborn (illustrated by Leo Espinosa, available from Penguin March 13), his debut picture book, is, in her words, "a celebration of creativity, diversity and our imagination's boundless ability to connect us."
The breakfast of nearly 1,000 booksellers and publishing representatives marked Díaz's first time speaking at the Winter Institute. "It's a great honor," he said, "to meet the people who made me possible." He began by giving a quick "genre of gratitudes" to the booksellers both present and not, to his publisher and to the bookstores he referred to as his own: Bunch of Grapes and Edgartown Books on Martha's Vineyard in Mass.; Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass.; New York City's Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria; and Singapore's BooksActually. "If it hadn't been for the curatorial devotion of independent bookstore sellers, my art would perish."
After expressing his gratitude, Díaz read prepared remarks. His speech was a deeply personal account of his childhood relationship with books and his inability to find himself in them. His family emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States in 1974, settling in Parlin, N.J., "on the bleeding edge of Bon Jovi-level whiteness." He explained that his family were the first Dominican people in the neighborhood and not welcomed: "The white supremacy... was all day every day for us immigrants of color where white folks could say anything to us without any kind of repercussion."
Having "arrived in the United States completely illiterate," Díaz said that, "if it hadn't been for the kindness of librarians," he probably wouldn't have found books. But he did. "Books became my shelter against the white world that sometimes felt like it was trying to destroy me." Yet, while the books saved, they also alienated him. As the world in which he lived told him his very existence was weird or wrong, his books either agreed with the greater world or acted as if he didn't exist at all: "what really killed, was the erasure. God almighty, the complete and utter erasure. How thoroughly kids like me did not exist in our books."
This desperate desire for representation in children's literature is what drew Díaz to writing for a young audience: children of color still "live out milder versions of what I endured in my childhood." He is working to "decolonize the shelves" and asked the audience to do the same. "Bookstore owners and librarians are on the front line. It's the smallest intervention that can sometimes create the most important, lasting change." He finished his speech to a standing ovation: "I wrote my children's book, Islandborn, because I believe there are things immigrants can teach that we all need to hear without which we will never understand this stolen land we inhabit."
You can watch his keynote here. --Siân Gaetano
On a personal note, I love Diaz’s writing. You can click here to see everything I have had to say about him.  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is one of the only books I have read three times-- for fun. I love how he captures the immigrant experience in general, his personal Dominican heritage, and nails what it mean to be from Jersey better than anyone.

He is one of the best writers I have ever read. He can take letters and craft them into words [in 2 languages] that can portray every emotion and at the same time, tell a story that is a pleasure to read. His stories can be in equal turns brutal, beautiful, funny, suspenseful, speculative, and above all-- lyrical.

But to hear him speak here, my heart breaks for him, yes, but it also breaks for all of the immigrant kids and all of the kids of color, who have never been reached by great books because they could not find one to speak to them and their experience.

He talks about how the library both saved him AND saddened him. It gave him a place to belong, but the books he read could not save him. Thankfully, he was able to write the books that could save him. And now he is writing to save others-- especially children. In a room full of white booksellers, he is challenging us all to do better.

Listen to Diaz. Don’t think you are not part of the problem...still. Even those of you, myself included, who are trying to do better, who make an effort to check our privilege. Every single one of us-- we all need to listen to Diaz tell us the honest truth from the perspective of that brown kid who became a great “American” writer.

Look, it is fine to say you are making sure that you are providing diverse reading options to all of your patrons. Everyone grows, learns, and is a better human on this planet by reading diversely. [Please use my diversity tag for more information, essays, and presentations on this topic.] But there is more to this speech. There is a call to action. We cannot keep paying lip service to the problem without ACTING.

If you get nothing else out of today’s post, please know that one of my mantras for 2018 is that when it comes to diversity, checking yourself is a mandatory, professional responsibility. I will demand that of all of you and of myself. And I am serious. I am working on a committee to re-write an author list and I assigned a person whose sole job is to be the diversity checker-- to make sure we are considering all voices. And I am not sorry that I didn’t even ask for this, I simply demand it happen and in the middle of the meeting asked someone to do it, putting her on the spot [but to be fair, I know her well enough to know she wouldn’t protest].

This is not how committees should work, but I am not ashamed of my behavior even a little.  Seriously people, this is how change happens- when people act. Don't wait for change to come. Act. I don’t care if that behavior described above made anyone upset. It is too important to wait around for change, or bring it up for discussion in 4 consecutive meetings before deciding to maybe do something.

I will continue to check myself, check others, but I will also ACT. I will demand we all do something. The last few years have been focused on talking about the problem. What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Trends Video Now Live and Free!

Last week I presented a BRAND new program on trends in adult leisure reading and collection development. Click here for that post which includes the slides.

But RAILS, my local library system who organized and hosted this webinar, is awesome and not only recorded the presentation but has posted it on their YouTube page for anyone in the world to view for free. You can click here or access it in the embedded video below.

This program compiles months of trending and Call to Action posts in one place. Even though I try to use tags and archives to keep these important posts together, many of my readers miss these or, as even happens to me, forget that I wrote about a topic.

I will be refining/updating this program one more time for a March presentation, but it will be only 60 mins instead of 90 and it will not be recorded. And then, it will be retired because it will be out of date. So until then, enjoy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Why I Love Romance: A Guest Post By Rachel Stevenson

Today I am kicking off a new occasional series to coincide with the beginning of the ARRT Romance Genre Study [first meeting is 2/1; details at this link]. The series I am kicking off is inspired by the work I do every October gathering “Why I love horror” posts from library workers and authors. I do these posts both the help and inspire all of you out there who are afraid of helping horror readers.

Romance, like horror suffers from a huge lack of respect, especially among library workers. Yes there are some in our ranks who love these genres, but in general, horror and romance get disparaged as not as “good” as other genres. I often argue in my programs that this is a direct result of the fact that both genres appeal to the readers’ emotions, thus making them more susceptible to being waved off as less serious. And with Romance, everything is magnified because it is a genre mostly read and written by women. This is a fact that is undeniable. 

No matter the reason, the truth is that many of you [library workers] don’t like Romance, don’t read it personally, and as a result, don’t really understand what the appeal of the genre is to its fans. The remedy for this is to educate ourselves and a genre study is a fun way to do this. It allows allows you to learn from others, gathering different perspectives as you go.

As we embark on this 2 year journey through romance, one you can all follow along via the notes, I am going to add to the conversation by providing another level of training, the voice of romance fans from all over sharing their personal passion for romance [pun intended]. I am tagging all of these posts “Why I love” in the hopes that some day other genres will also be represented under this label.

Today we begin with Rachel Stevenson. Rachel is a librarian in Erie County, Pennsylvania. She received her masters in library and information science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2009 and her masters of art in arts administration from Goucher College in 2014. Stevenson is an avid reader and love traditional Regency romances, historical fiction especially about the World Wars and the Long Weekend, Jane Austen, and historical mysteries. She acts as Lois Alter Mark’s bibliotherapist on her blog Midlife at the Oasis and has been featured in the Huffington Post. 

Right after the Romance NYT controversy, which is part of our first Romance Genre Study Assignment [and which I also blogged about it here], I was a guest at the PA Lib Association Annual conference.  Many of us were chatting about it and Rachel, was one of the most vocal about why the whole hub-bub made her mad. I asked Rachel to share her passion for romance with my readers. Below, is her response and the very first Why I Love Romance guest post.

If you are a romance fan, drop me a line and we can talk about you contributing to this series.

But for now, here is Rachel.


I have a group of fabulous friends and every time we talk the badinage flows. Badinage? You might say. Well it’s a word I recently learned while reading romance novels. It means witty conversation. Romance novels are how I grow my vocabulary even though most people think the romance industry is selling mendacious propaganda and they get all lachrymose and mumpish about it. Personally, I think they are all a bunch of quidnuncs and should go study lepidoptery instead. Most of the people who decry the romance industry would prefer we pay obeisance to “better genres” like literary fiction and Nobel Prize winners. Even Hillary Clinton has criticized the romance industry and I bet she hasn’t read a romance book either ever or in a really long time. 

Years ago I was ashamed I read romance, but not anymore. Now I read it freely, openly, with abandon, and I even talk about it with people I think would look down on romance novels. Why? Because romance isn’t bad. It doesn’t hurt us. And it can have some really positive aspects. Case in point….my vocabulary. 

The opening paragraph uses words that many people have never heard before and I learned them all from reading romance novels. Romance is like every other genre out there. Some are really bad. Some are really good. And some are in between. I’m sure we can all find Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning novels that fall into the exact same categories. I’m actually convinced to win a Pulitzer all you have to do is write a 700 page novel that someone wants to read. So Diana Gabaldon and George R. R. Martin should be next. 

Romance books fall into so many categories and the category I read the most take place in the Regency time period when Jane Austen was alive and mad King George III (he’s the guy we fought against in the Revolutionary War) could no longer rule so his son took over as Prince Regent hence the title The Regency Period. This period ended when George III died and his son, George IV became king. Look at all that history I just learned and it came from reading romance novels. 

In Regency England the upperclasses were better educated knowing words and phrases from the Ancient Greek and Latin. Women needed to know how to speak French and Italian as well as their native English to be considered accomplished. So today when I read a Regency romance, the authors I choose research well and include history and correct terminology in their stories. 

For me this is great. I love words. As a librarian I like to learn new words and I like to share them. I like to use my two years of Latin to try to figure out some of the Latin words like quidnunc, which means a person who gossips. My Latin tells me that quid means what and nunc means now. So the Latin translation is “what now” and of course that is perfect to describe a gossip because they always want to tell you what happened now. Or quidnunc. Obviously they know their French as well since badinage comes from the French term “to jest”. 

Finding these words is like a hidden treasure in romance novels. Not only do I get a good story with a happy ending I also get to sleuth by looking up words I’ve never heard before and then go deeper by finding out from where they originated. If you have teenage children you should be pushing romance novels on them so they too can build their vocabulary. Mendacious and lachrymose are great SAT words. And here’s another newsflash not all romance have sex. Shocking I know. Not everything is a bodice ripper. In fact, traditional Regencies, what I read most, barely have any sex at all because women and men didn’t just sleep around whenever. There were very strict rules about men and women and what they could or could not do. If you were found alone with a man….you had to marry him. Even if it was by accident. Even if you’ve only just met. Even if you despised him. If they were that strict for just being in a room alone with a man you have no idea what premarital sex would get you. 

For those who are intrigued, but not enough to find a dictionary mendacious means a lie. Lachrymose means full of tears or weepy (hint: for those of us who are also adults but read children’s books there is a Lake Lachrymose in Lemony Snicket’s A Serious of Unfortunate Events). Mumpish is sullen and lepidoptery is the study of moths. Finally obeisance is deferential respect like something you would show Queen Elizabeth II if you ever happen to meet (in a romance novel you just might!). And these words are just a few. Each book is filled with more words than I can count that I have not heard before and am willing to learn and use to broaden my vocabulary. 

So what we need to do is not only broaden our vocabulary, but also our minds by reading romance novels. I just finished one by Mary Balogh that taught it was kindness that is the most important aspect of love. To be kind and to be treated kindly in return. Now that doesn’t seem like a bodice ripper or a bad story for our children to learn while growing up. In conclusion, don’t judge romance just because you think you know what it is and what the plot devices are. Stop being so Spanish Inquisition and become inquisitional. Pick up a romance novel. Try it out. Learn a new word and maybe learn something new about life, love, and yourself. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Bestsellers of 2017- PW Numbers and Assessment

Let’s start off the week with one last look back at 2017. Each year, Publisher’s Weekly does an extensive piece crunching the numbers for the entire year for Adult Bestsellers in Fiction and Nonfiction, even breaking down hardcover vs trade paperback vs mass market.

Click here for the piece.

This annual article is a MUST read for anyone who works with any leisure readers. I especially urge you to pass this link to your circulation staff too.

I love this annual breakdown and I am urging you to spend 10 minutes thoroughly reading it. Nowhere else will you see all of the bestsellers assessed together in one place. You will be able to spot some newer trends [like 2017 saw a lot of popular books about making your life better and simpler in many areas], be reminded of titles that endure [SAT prep, What to Expect When You Are Expecting, and The Shack], and see how many weeks specific titles stayed on the list. I also love the breakdowns by publisher and imprint that this article provides each year. They also include year-to-year comparisons.

One of my favorite and fast takeaways from this annual piece is that I can use to to immediately add a new batch of sure bet titles to my arsenal for those who just want “a good read.” Take this paragraph for example:
Spending 41 weeks on our Hardcover Fiction list in 2017 (plus an additional 12 in 2016), A Gentleman in Moscow banished all worries of a sophomore slump for author Amor Towles. It took the prize for longevity last year, with no other title coming close. In second place was Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, holding fast for 30 weeks (plus another 20 in 2016).
If you haven’t already added these two titles to your cache of books to suggest to any patron, do it right now. Books that sell this well will work for most readers. Looking back on my own year of helping readers in 2017, I think these two titles were among my most popular suggestions last year. Keep reading because a few paragraphs later, they also talk about 2016 debuts that still sold strongly in 2017. Those are also a great choice to add to your sure bet arsenal.

But those reasons are just a tease at what you will find. Reading the Bestsellers of 2017 by PW [or any year] is the easiest way to understand the big picture of leisure reading across all adult readers. I would also recommend pairing this piece with your own assessment of you reading from 2017 [as I urged you to do here]. How well did your reading match up with the overall themes and trends from last year? Do you need to catch up on a few titles you missed? Were there titles you were unaware of here? It’s okay if you missed stuff because you can catch up by reading this article.

Read it to make sure you understand the year that just passed, from the book perspective, but also use it to keep an eye toward the future. I know it is a cliche, but knowledge is power. We don’t need to read every book, but we need to be aware of what is most popular so we can assist our patrons better and anticipate their needs. Now you can go find out more about the titles that you know the least about. It is a great cheatsheet to let you know where to focus your immediate attention.

Again, the full piece is here. Start of your week off with this important look back at 2017.

Click here for the article 

Friday, January 19, 2018

What I’m Reading: Three New Booklist Reviews

The final reviews I wrote for Booklist in 2017 were quite varied and two of the three were excellent. This is also a reminder that I publish my draft reviews, so the review you see in the magazine will vary from this post. My posts usually have more words and I add extra RA content to help you help readers better.

Let’s start with a 2 volume reference set which surprised me with how well done it was, and apparently, I am not alone because earlier this week it was on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Awards. Phew! I always feel better when I love something and others do too. Weirdly, I am not as worried that when I dislike something that others will like it.

Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories That Speak to Our Deepest Fears. 2v.  Cardin, Matt (editor). Oct. 2017. 967p. ABC-CLIO, hardcover, $189  (9781440842016); e-book (9781440842023). 809.3. First published January 1, 2018 (Booklist).
Horror literature is not only reaching heights of popularity not seen since the 1980s when King, Koontz, and Rice reigned atop the bestseller lists, but it is also beginning to be taken more seriously by academics. Those two audiences, the fan and the scholar, collide in this well organized and fun two volume reference set. Cardin, a critically acclaimed editor of paranormal themed reference works, has looked at horror literature with the broadest lense possible, considering not just its history but also, its influence on new media, other genres, and more, organizing it all into three distinct and meticulously researched sections. Part One, “Horror Through History” consists of eight essays chronologically addressing the history of horror. Part Two, “Themes, Topics, and Genres,” is made up of 23 essays discussing larger issues and academic topics about the genre and how both the literature and the study of it has evolved over time. Part Three is a traditional encyclopedia of almost 400 entries about authors, topics, and seminal works, listed alphabetically. Scattered throughout are interviews and sidebars from experts. Common Core Standards were also considered when Cardin constructed this book, seen most notably in his inclusion of excerpts from works of horror so that students can read them critically after encountering the corresponding entry. Extremely informative in its content, easy to use, engaging in its writing style, Cardin’s comprehensive and inclusive reference work not only solidly makes the case for horror’s endurance and importance in our lives, as humans, throughout history but also presents it in a package that is a pleasure to read. 
Further Appeal: With the increased interest in horror literature as a topic academic study, this set makes a great addition to most public libraries. It is easy to use and affordable. The common core additions will make it valuable to students.

Fans will also enjoy reading about their favorite authors as this set includes up to date information about currently popular authors.

I should note, I have turned down reviewing horror reference books in the past for Booklist because I didn’t think they were worth it for libraries to buy. Since this one was useful both to fans and students, and is a very good deal for what you get, I was excited to review it for all of your consideration.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Informative, Engaging, Fun

Now another star review, this time for a well known author and library crowd pleaser, but even I was surprised at how good this one was.

The Listener.

McCammon, Robert (author).Feb. 2018. 380p. Cemetery Dance, hardcover, $25  (9781587676130)
REVIEW.  First published January 1, 2018 (Booklist).

Life in America in 1934 is not easy. Everyone has to do what they can to get by, but some make better choices than others. John and Ginger are a couple of cons who come together in rural Texas to hatch a dangerous and evil get-rich-quick scheme; they are going to kidnap the children of a rich, New Orleans businessman. Meanwhile, Curtis is a black, redcap at Union Station in New Orleans with a special gift; he is “listener,” one who can communicate telepathically with other “listeners” near him, but this skill has left him living as an outsider in his already marginalized community of the Treme. To be black, poor, and special in Depression era New Orleans is no gift, but circumstances conspire to bring Curtis and his unique powers to the aid of the endangered children. McCammon, already an established master of historical thrillers and supernatural horror combines the two in a compelling and suspenseful tale of race, class, and family. The intricate and satisfying crime plot is enhanced by superior character development, an authentic and richly detailed historical setting, a tense dread that begins in the opening scene and continues to intensify throughout, especially after the storylines merge, and an omniscient narration that lets the reader know exactly how bad things really are. This is a violent and gritty tale. There is no sugar coating the real life difficulties explored in this supernatural thriller, and while happy endings are for fairy tales, redemption is always a possibility. The Listener will be popular with fans of occult thrillers like those by Dean Koontz or F. Paul Wilson, but also consider suggesting to readers who enjoy the thought provoking, speculative fiction of Victor LaValle.
Further Appeal: This one is a great genre blend- historical fiction and horror. It is equally as good at both. Although I am not surprised by this since McCammon has been blending the two seamless for many years. Most recently, I reviewed [and enjoyed] Last Train from Perdition [I Travel By Night, Book Two] which is a great vampire story and a wonderful western.

Here we have New Orleans in the 1930s, richly rendered. There is also a compelling race and class issues frame. The characters are well developed, the suspense is palpable, and the dark fantasy/horror elements enhance all parts of the storytelling. Seriously, every appeal mentioned in this paragraph is improved by the speculative elements. That’s not only a sign at how well constructed the book it, but it is also a signifier that this is a genre blended book that will appeal widely.

Three Words That Describe This Book: intricate plot, class/race issues, character-centered

Readalikes: McCammon is a writer that many people who say I don’t read horror, but...” like, much like the three readalike authors I recommended above. People who enjoy Stephen King will also like McCammon.

But I also think that some more literary titles with strong historical and speculative elements will also be great readalikes here such as Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Delicious Foods by James Hannaham, and Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon; The Science and Enduring Allure of Mary Shelley’s Creation.

Perkowitz, Sidney (editor) and Eddy Von Mueller (editor).
 Jan. 2018. 256p. Pegasus, hardcover, $28.95  (9781681776293). 823.7. 
REVIEW.  First published December 15, 2017 (Booklist).

2018 marks the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book that has never been out of print, but even more remarkably, its central themes, issues, and concerns are still as relevant today as they were when it was first conceived. How and why Shelley’s creation has transcended its place as merely a story and wound its way into the very fabric of our lives is the central question co-editors Sidney Perkowitz, a physicist, and Eddie von Mueller, a film expert, have posed to a variety of scholars, organizing their responses into three sections, “The Roots and Themes of Frankenstein,” “The Monster, the Media, and the Marketplace,” and “The Challenges of Frankenstein: Science and Ethics,” and presented them in a single volume aimed at all Frankenstein fans-- from casual to cosplay. Readers will encounter essays from as wide a range of angles as traditional literary criticism, to discussions of Frankenstein based toys and their effect on childhood development, to an essay by scientists about their government funded work on the molecular basis of life. The overall effect is a multi-faceted read that is thought provoking and spreads the influence of the original text into corners that most readers have never thought to go. And, with an extensive bibliography, it can also be a guide to those who want to delve deeper. For maximum impact, consider pairing it with 2017’s excellent The New Annotated Frankenstein, edited by Leslie S. Klinger.
Further Appeal: This book was fine. It provides an interesting range of angles to look at why the idea and image of “Frankenstein” the monster has endured for so long. It should be added to library collections because of that breadth. My problem with it is only that it is very short, so that you are introduced to an idea and then you move on to another. But, paired with other books about the topic and in this year of the 200th Anniversary of this seminal work’s publication, I think many readers will find something interesting here.

Three Words That Describe This Book: original, thought provoking, essays

Readalikes: I mention Klinger’s excellent new annotated edition of the original Shelly novel above. I gave it a star review.

There are many books about Frankenstein out there to choose from, but the newest titles [like this one] look at the STEM implications of the novel as well as the fact that it was written by a teenage girl. You could spend hours searching GoodReads for titles if you wanted.

But, one of the best new novels to take on Frankenstein as inspiration is Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi [comes out on 1/23/18]. Daniel Kraus gave it a star review in Booklist and it is garnering a ton of praise. I cannot wait to read it myself.