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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Call to Action: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Begins At Home

I stand with April.

This statement refers to the horrible treatment April Hathcock received during an official ALA Council session. April discussed the issue at length and in great detail here. Please read it, including the current ALA President's response.

Some have questioned April's professionalism. Some say there is more to the story. I am not one of those people. April is out on the front lines as a POC library leader. She is always insightful. She is undeniably brilliant. She also is someone who pushes ALL OF US to do better. Are her methods direct and meant to stir up actual, honest debate. YES! And thank goodness for that. I stand behind her 100%.

Some people in our profession [and the world] think that when younger people engage in honest, real talk about uncomfortable issues that we are being "unprofessional." I disagree completely. We are simply not willing to put up with the way things have been and also are unwilling to talk around the issue. Being to the point and addressing difficult issues head on is way more professional than ignoring them.

How do I know this? Two reasons. First, I was elected as a library trustee in Cook County, IL at the age of 26. So I know what it means to be fighting for change within the confines of and "old school" governing body and "Roberts Rules" and all that. Some people have argued that April uses methods outside of the established rules to get her point across. Well, duh. I did that too. For years. I fought against people who tried, in public meeting, to tell me that you can't just do that, Becky. Well guess what. You can. And I did. I talked right back to them and wouldn't stand down. The result, I'm still standing and they are not. Also, I became the youngest IL Library Luminary ever, partially because of this work, so...

Second, I too have been accused of being unprofessional in a public, professional setting. I was called out in Public Libraries magazine as trying to ruin RA by "deprofessionalizing it." And my attacker wouldn't even use my name, although he was very clear as to who he was attacking because numerous people contacted me to tell me about it as soon as it was published.

But unlike April, I am white. I can push harder than her on all of these issues because of this privilege. I know this and it sucks. I am not half as smart or well spoken as April, but I get to stand on my soap box with very little resistance, and definitely without being threatened to keep quiet, like she was threatened.

As I travel the country, I am constantly faced with opposition when I demand that all libraries must cultivate diverse collections and but that I mean ALL. I wrote a longer post about it here and even used some quotes from people I have met on my travels who were so thankful for my help in their fight. And listen, it is not just the places you would expect these blatantly racist and homophobic things would happen. I promise you, it is everywhere.

Here is a recent example from this Fall. I stood up in meeting about the revisions to our State Library Standards during the ILA Annual Conference and defended the need for diverse books in every collection, even when a high ranking member of my state library association challenged me in that public meeting by saying, "Well my community is too white and conservative to handle too much diversity." I said, "No they are not. Every community needs diverse collections that represent all view points. And, they need you as a community leader to set the example for change." I know her library. I know she would face push back. But I also know that if she fought for what was right, they would eventually relent because she is well respected. But as of now, she won't

After that meeting a few people came up to me to thank me for standing up for EDI being added to our state library standards. They are still in revisions and I don't know what will happen.

Here is another example, once, while visiting a library where the bathrooms were identical, single use bathrooms [neither had a urinal], I spent some of my break time seeking out and finding the library manager to engage her in a discussion about why these bathrooms needed to be gendered. They could  both just be "restrooms." Her argument was that people expect them to be labelled. I said, I think you would find that people will still know that they are places where people can relive themselves without gendering them. It is unnecessary to gender, single use genderless bathrooms, ever. I have no idea if they were changed, but I will not stand by in places where I see EDI problems and NOT speak up.

Which leads me to all of you, my readers. Especially those of you who are nodding along with everything I have written. Yes you, well meaning white ladies reading this. What are you doing to stand up for true EDI in our profession and with your own actions?

Don't tell me, "A lot" because that is not true. Even I am not doing as much as I could. For example, while I always include very clear and firm content in my presentations-- both passively and actively-- arguing for diverse collections, I do not let people know that is one of my themes and goals up front. Why do I hide that mission?

I think it is because I figured people expect this from me. But as I mentioned in a previous Call to Action, some of what I say is shocking and uncomfortable to people. What happened to April, someone who has made it clear that she is on the ALA Council to help move the organization forward by discussing our underlying racism [it's why I voted for her and am proud she represents me], I too am going to be clear and take a strong stand with every single one of my clients.

To that end, I have crafted an EDI statement below. It is a first draft and I am very open to comments that will help me to improve it, so pass them on:
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion statement: RA for All’s programs are crafted and delivered to encourage all library staff to use leisure reading as a way to connect with the community, with a particular focus on reaching the underserved and promoting "own voices" authors. Throughout all of my training sessions we will explore ways in which library staff can provide services, collections, and programming that puts EDI concerns at the forefront. Examples include but are not limited to, delivering the same information in different formats, advice on how to diversify your displays, and ways to include more staff voices in basic RA service [more voices leads to more equitable, diverse, and inclusive offerings]. Libraries that hire RA for All must be interested in allowing all staff [not just professional and/or public service staff] to participate in serving all populations, not just the ones most represented by staff or as identified in a local census.
This statement now resides on my Recent and Upcoming Programs page; the same page where I post my rates and links to my programs. It will also be included in every single contract I write from here on out.

I am going to be blunt and honest about my agenda and if that makes me unprofessional, well then that's your problem because I know I am correct.

I stand by April both in theory and practice. What about you?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

RA for All is Taking a Cold Day- Go Read A Book

Here in the Chicago area everything is closed. Our high temperature will reach a whopping -13 today [without wind chill factored in]. My furnace is running and seems happy to be keeping my house 63 even though it is set for 70 [although this appears to be par for the course].

I am working from home on a reference for a colleague and a review for Booklist, and then I am going to attack my stack of library books that I want to read, not ones I have to read.

Why don't you join me? Pick up that book that has been on your to-read pile for forever. Go to your library's website and download something you either have wanted to read and never got around to OR pick something totally at random, download it, and see what happens. [I might do that later actually] Re-read an old favorite.

Just go read. Especially those of you who had work cancelled. Don't use the extra time to organize your house or clean or whatever. Use it to read.

I know the world thinks we library workers sit around all day and read, but unfortunately, as we know, this is hardly the case. We are all struggling to find time to read with everything else we do. So, take advantage today and get under a blanket and read.

I am going to alternate between reading and playing board games with the kids. We are digging out the games from the bottom of the closet so this should be fun.

Stay safe and enjoy a good book.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Resource Reminder, Reminder: All Readers for SEX and Violence

Today I am reposting a resource reminder from 2016 because I still get regular questions about this resource and/or questions about how to assess sex and violence levels in a book before you suggest it AND how to assess how much sex and violence you patron has handled in the past. All Readers does both, it just isn't a very pretty site; very useful but also the definition of a hot mess.

Before you read on I also wanted to add this reminder-- as you will see below, don't believe your readers who tell you they don't like a lot of violence and that James Patterson is their favorite author. These readers are lying to you. Read on to see proof.


Resource Reminder: All Readers for SEX and VIOLENCE

I often take for granted that just because I know that I mention something in many of my programs AND it is linked on my popular 10 Rules of Basic RA page that everyone is aware of it. But based on the questions I have received in my email recently, I am quite wrong to do this.

So today I want to point you all to my favorite resource for frank and easy to use info on SEX and VIOLENCE-- All Readers.

Let me begin with this warning, however. All Readers is a messy and imperfect site. I never use it except for this one reason-- SEX and VIOLENCE. Again, let me stress I am NOT recommending you use their reviews, only the box at the very bottom of each entry that is titled, “Chapter analysis.”

Why do I love this resource so much? Again, I need to say it-- SEX and VIOLENCE. How much does the reader in front of you want? Where is their tipping point? And most importantly, how do you bring up this sensitive [but necessary] RA question with a compete stranger?

The answer to all of these questions is All Readers.

Let me show you with a couple of examples.

It is not going out on a limb to say that James Patterson is one of the most popular authors in terms of library checkouts. I often had patrons come in and say, I don’t like too much violence in my suspense. Okay, I would say, who is your favorite author then? Answer: James Patterson.

Now, in case you don’t know, Patterson’s books are VERY VIOLENT, more violent than average. They have always been violent and have only gotten more so over the years.

Look at the Chapter Analysis entry for one of Patterson’s earliest books in All Readers if you don’t believe me:

As you can clearly see, the patron who says they don’t like violence but loves Patterson, is not giving you the information you need to help him or her. This is not malicious. It is just that for this particular reader, Patterson is not violent because it is not too violent for him or her. It is all relative and highly specific to the patron in front of you at that moment.

Whenever someone brings up a book that you know has some kind of violence, it is important to see if All Readers has an entry so you can get an impartial picture of the violence found between the covers.

But SEX, that is even harder to talk about at the service desk.  Complicating matters is the fact that there are many Romance authors who have been very popular in our libraries for years, but whose level of heat we were not as intimately [pun intended] aware of pre- 50 Shades of Grey. Here is a great example.  Below you can see the EXACT same Susan Elizabeth Philips’ book, but on the left is the pre-50 Shades cover and on the right is the post-50 Shades cover:

Again, this is the SAME book. Before 50 Shades of Grey came out, you would not have thought twice about handing this very mainstream title to any reader. Look at that sweet cover.  Well, I hate to break it to all of you, but the cover on the right is a MUCH BETTER representation of the content.

If you had gone to the All Readers entry for the book, you would have seen this:

Now, I am probably more willing to talk about sex and violence with a patron than most of you, but even I don’t want to ask a patron, “How are you with Weiner talk?”

But thankfully, I don’t have to. Rather, I ask those looking for romance titles about a favorite book, look it up in All Readers and then I can get a better sense of exactly what type of romance they are looking for-- all without making you or the patron uncomfortable.

One final note, I wrote this post because I am often asked, “what’s that sex and violence resource again?” So if there is something you remember me mentioning on the blog or when I presented for you but you just can’t recall it, leave a comment or contact me. I am sure you aren’t the only one. I can do more of these posts as you want them.

Now get out there and search for SEX and VIOLENCE with confidence. [A statement I never pictured myself saying when I became a librarian, by the way.]

Monday, January 28, 2019

ALA Midwinter Adult Media Award Links

Here are the Adult Media Award winner lists for 2019 with links; at least those that are most relevant to RA Service. For each award I am linking to the news article of the winners [announced last night], and then, I am linking to the archive page where winners from the last few years are super easy to access. The webmaster hasn't updated those pages with the new winners yet. It's a busy weekend, but they will get to it.

Again, I am linking you to the backlist because...well if you don't know by now, you aren't paying attention to me at all.

Seriously though, award lists are a great resources, but the backlist is gold. Here is my original post where I discuss Using Awards Lists As a RA tool in general.

Now to the awards and the backlist links.
You can access all of the RUSA Books and Media award winners- including the reference winners- here. This is a website that you can use for suggestions to readers all year long. Remember, backlist winners are still just as good as current ones. They just aren't as shiny. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

LJ's Midwinter Galley Guide: A Great Resource for Those Left Behind

Like many of you, I am not in Seattle for the ALA Midwinter Meetings, but thanks to the work of others I am able to stay abreast of what is happening.

I am particularly excited about the Adult Media Awards on Sunday night and of course the Youth ones on Monday-- details here.

Monday I will have all of the adult links on the blog, especially the RUSA CODES Reading List winners which are the adult genre fiction winners. Click here for the archive of past winners sorted by year and genre. There is always a winner, readalikes for that winner, and honorable mention titles. This is a wonderful resource for both suggestions and collection development.

Speaking of resources, one of the best collection development resources are the Library Journal Galley Guides which Barbara Hoffert compiles for every major conference. Here is the current one for 2019 Midwinter.

Here's a secret, I think this guide is actually more useful to those of us who aren't at the conference. Why? Well, when people are there in person, most use it simply to find out which galleys are going to be given out when and who is signing where. [I am on the record saying that running around trying to get free books and wait in long lines is not a good use of your time.]

But, those of us who are back at home, we have time to go through the Galley Guide, taking note of which books the publishers are pushing the hardest. What do they think will take off? What should we be pre-ordering.

Also, don't forget to look through the guide and note trends, authors who you already have in your collections who are going to have a new book, etc... You can make displays based on what you learn from going through the guide even though not a single one of these books is out yet.

I'll help you get started. Make a display titled-- "Coming in 2019 By...." and put out books by Colson Whitehead, Jaqueline Winspear, Sonali Dev,.... and that is just the first few big names I encountered in the guide. Make sure you also offer a handout with their new titles where patrons can check off those they want to put on hold. This is a display that is easy to put up and keep filled and it is very interactive for your patrons.

Also by default it will be diverse and inclusive because you aren't limiting it by genre, format, fiction vs nonfiction, etc... The display will and should include anything and everything.

And, another benefit, a display as broad as this one higjights the breath of your collections. For example, have you ever had literary fiction author Whitehead and romance author Dev in the same display? I bet not. But, I would also bet that more readers than you think have read and enjoyed both of these authors. I know I have.

So stop being sad you are ALA left behind, and start using the resources being created by the conference to serve your patrons better right now. Your colleagues in Seattle will have to catch up to you when they get back.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Returns to North Country Library System [NY] for Book Discussion Training

I always love when I get to work with people again, especially people I enjoyed working with the first time [which is most, but not all]. I am particularly happy to be working with Angela from North Country Library System again as not only was she wonderful to work with back in 2016, but we have stayed in touch and even met up a few times since at library conferences.

Last year Angela did a survey of her member libraries and asked them to tell her what training they wanted to see in 2019. She was pleasantly surprised to see "Book Discussion Training" at the top of the list, and it was clearly head and shoulders above anything else people wanted or needed.

So of course Angela contacted me immediately.

Long time readers of this blog know this, but it bears repeating, next to promoting horror, book clubs and helping library staff to be better book discussion leaders is one of my passions. And like with my work with horror RA, I have contributed some original ideas and concepts to the book discussion field, namely my "Leadership and Group Norms" which I discuss at length in every Book Discussion training [and in print here]. You can also pull them up here as a handy double sided handout.

So today is the first, and I already know not the last, Recharge You Book Club presentation of 2019.

This program works in person or as a webinar. When I do it in person, I often assign a book and after the 1 hour training we do an example book discussion together too.

But today is the webinar for my friends in Northern NY state. Slide access for them and all of you is right here. There are many other links throughout that presentation, including the aforementioned handout.

Click here for slide access

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Giveaway of Exploring Dark Short Fiction #3: A Primer to Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl is a writer and scholar of speculative fiction. She is especially gifted in the story and novella formats. A great readalike for currently popular authors like Nnedi Okorafor and Nicky Dryden and for fans of Black Panther, Shawl has been writing speculative fiction and winning awards for it for years

As part of his series exploring the masters of dark, short fiction critically acclaimed author and editor, Eric J. Guignard's newest entry is focused on Shawl.

Here is the official press release from Dark Moon Books:
Praised by literary journals, news outlets, and leading fiction magazines, Nisi Shawl is celebrated as an author whose works are lyrical and philosophical, speculative and far-ranging; “...broad in ambition and deep in accomplishment” (The Seattle Times). Besides nearly three decades of creating fantasy and science fiction, fairy tales, and indigenous stories, Nisi has also been lauded as editor, journalist, and proponent of feminism, African-American fiction, and other pedagogical issues of diversity. 
Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to her work, the third in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover—or learn more of—the vibrant voice of Nisi Shawl, as beautifully illustrated by artist Michelle Prebich. 
This is the third Primer in a series. Included within each book are:
  • Six short stories, one written exclusively for this publication
  • Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
  • Author interview, bibliography, biography, and more!
  • Titles in this series line include: Vol. 1: Steve Rasnic Tem; Vol. II: Kaaron Warren; Vol. III: Nisi Shawl;
  • Forthcoming-- Vol. IV: Jeffrey Ford; Vol. V: Han Song; Vol. VI: Ramsey Campbell
This entire series is great [in fact, I featured it on the horror blog previously, here] and every single book is available through your local ordering channels [B&T and Ingram], but this entry on Shawl is a must own for every library. Seriously, do you have people on hold for Black Panther. Do you have fans of Victor LaValle, Octavia Butler, Binti, N.K. Jemisin? I am not going to let you answer because not a single library in America can say no to all of these.

Since this is a smaller publisher and the series is worth everyone knowing about [the upcoming volume on Han Song, China's premier Science Fiction writer, will feature original translations of his work, many available for the first time in English!], I have partnered with Eric to give away 2 copies of the new Shawl book.

Here are the rules and restrictions:
  1. The only way you can enter is through this google form.
  2. You must currently work at an American or Canadian library and the book MUST be mailed to your work. I cannot require you add the book to your collections, but this is my intention. Please do not enter if you are not going to put this book in circulation to patrons.
  3. All entries will be shared with Dark Moon Books. I am collecting your name, library address, and email only. By entering you are agreeing to these terms and conditions Please share professional info only. Eric will have access to this information for promotional purposes, updates, and news. Dark Moon Books is one of the best publishers of international dark fiction in America. I also featured their critically acclaimed A World of Horror: An Anthology of New Dark And Speculative Fiction Stories from Around the World in Library Journal this past summer.
  4. The deadline to enter is 5pm Eastern on 1/31/19. I will contact the winners via email on the 31st and publicly announce on the blog as well.
If you are unwilling to share your info with the publisher, I totally get that, but if the book still interests you, consider just buying a copy for your library. Again, the entire series is available on both B7T and Ingram. Eric has also started the process of having the books available electronically on OverDrive.

Enter today and while you wait, why not make a display centered around Shawl? You can use her excellent essay "A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction" to get you started.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

What I'm Reading: Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias

Below is my star review of a small press book which appears on Booklist Online. Kudos to Booklist and my editor, Susan Maguire for agreeing to make sure this review was published despite the fact that I didn't receive the review copy until after the novel's publication date. Normally, Booklist tries to only publish reviews before a book comes out so that you have time to preorder it for your libraries, but once in awhile a book, like this one, comes out from a small press, with little or no warning, and it would be a disservice to all of you and your patrons if we did not get the review out so that you can have an easier time adding it to your collections. Thanks for the support Booklist, for me, for indie authors, for library staff, and most importantly, for readers.

The review below is not an exaggeration. This book blew me away. And please note, I have a track record of knowing what I am talking about-- see previous super early support of Bird Box (by an unknown author at the time), Gone Girl (given to me by Flynn herself months before it came out) and Cabin at the End of the World (which I read last February). 

[Speaking of Bird Box, side note: people are coming up to me everywhere [in person, online, stopping my husband at stuff for the kids where I am absent] and thanking me for telling them to read that book years ago.]

Coyote Songs.

Iglesias, Gabino (author).

Oct. 2018. 212p. Broken River, paper, $15.99  (9781940885490)
First published January 18, 2019 (Booklist Online).
Iglesias, follows his Wonderland Book Award nominated debut [Zero Saints], with a brutal, beautiful, and utterly necessary story for our difficult times. Told in a collage style, he presents six distinct voices, Pedrito, The Mother, The Coyote, Jaime, Alma, and La Bruja, and in succession has each narrate their story, stories that are connected, not in the same plot, but in that together they provide a horrifying and honest portrait of life on the border- borders that separate countries, but also the borders between the living and the dead. Iglesias’ goal is to share what it is actually like to be brown, poor, and desperate, and he refuses to sugar coat it. Tension and discomfort are present on every page, from savage killings, in utero monsters, wailing witches, even the untranslated Spanish, all of it is there to make readers uncomfortable, pleading with them to understand that the people who live on the fringes are not a monolithic mass, and that they all have a face, a story, and a right to live. Told with strong narrative voices that return on a loop which intensifies the pacing, and in gorgeous prose, even when describing horrible things, this is a horror, crime and literary mashup that will challenge every reader it touches, no matter their race, political leanings, or how woke they think they are. You will flinch multiple times when reading this book, but you need to. That’s the point and that’s why it must be experienced. Give to readers who enjoy the lyrical, heartbreaking, but not hopeless works of Jennifer Clement, Tommy Orange, and Kiese Laymon.
Further Appeal: Because I knew this review would be online, I didn't have to worry about the word count [with Susan's permission] so I packed a lot in there. But I really want to stress how the story is told here. You could argue that it is a novel or a story collection. I lean toward novel because like There There, mentioned above and below, each narrator has a unique story to tell and they don't just have one chance to do it. In Coyote Songs, the narrators go in order once and then they repeat, and repeat again, etc.... There There was more random.

However, unlike There There, the storylines being told in Coyote Songs do not converge. They are unique and distinct. Together they paint one picture of a place and our current moment in time, but they are all unrelated in a literal sense.

This is an unconventional storytelling style that is hard to classify. In fact, just this week, Coyote Songs made the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Award in the Fiction Collection not the Novel category. Although I am a juror for this award, I was not involved with either of those categories. I share that personal information because as a juror, I know first hand how much vetting and verifying is done to make sure books are in the correct category.

I don't think the unconventional style will turn people away [just as it did not with There There], but since it effects how you experience the story as a reader, I think it is the most important appeal to mention.

I think the choice to tell story as a mosaic, was perfect. It heightens the unease and gives each narrator more power, more presence, and more emphasis by breaking up their stories separated by others having their chance to speak to us. All are distinct, yes, but each alone is not enough to create the feelings and the emotions Iglesias is trying to portray.

Otherwise, I think I have all of the major appeals in the review. It is a difficult, tense, uncomfortable story filled with beauty and violence. Oh, and the first chapter....one of the best opening chapters I have ever read. It is all of those things and it is brilliant. Seriously, brilliant. I had to put the book down and contemplate it after only a few pages. And, it is even more brilliant after finishing the book because you realize how perfect the first chapter introduced the entire book.

As I said on the horror blog when I made my 2018 best list and put this book at #3: Raw, honest, and beautifully written horror on the southern border. It will make you uncomfortable in every way and you cannot, will not, and should not look away.

Three Words That Describe this Book: discomfort, character centered, beautiful

Readalikes: The three authors I mentioned above are a great place to start, and those links go to their Goodreads page. I also have longer reviews of Clement's Prayers for the Stolen and Orange's There There on the blog which have more readalikes for you. Also here is a list of books Kiese Laymon wants you to read via Booklist.

Although the stories are very different, the way Coyote Songs "breaks you" emotionally as a reader is similar to Cabin at the End of the World by Tremblay. You are broken after reading it, but you are also glad you experienced such an amazing book that is also beautiful and thought provoking. Also like the Tremblay title, this is a genre mashup of crime, literary, and speculative.

Finally, another one of my favorite backlist horror titles is also set on and around the border of the US and Mexico-- Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout. The storytelling style is different [more ethereal and magical for the Gout vs more realistic with speculative elements for Iglesias], but I like both a lot, so maybe you will too.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Summer Scares Program News Including an Interview with Me via United for Libraries

I know it is hit or miss on who is working today, but I since I am hard at work and have lots of news, I thought today was a good time to share it.

As I mentioned here back on October, I am part of a national committee of book, writing, and library professionals who are working to connect horror readers, authors, and libraries. It is called Summer Scares. From the launch press release:
The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.
Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free. 
The committee is in the final stages of compiling the 9 selections to be announced on February 14th, but while you wait, we are also busy creating lists of books you can use to make displays and hand out to all age levels of horror fans with confidence.

Please go and visit the Summer Scares FAQ and Resources page housed over on RA for All Horror. It includes content from all of our partners and best selling author Grady Hendrix.

We plan to keep updating this resource page with more resources and ready to use lists even after the February 14th announcement of the official Summer Scares selections because this program is not about the 9 specific titles only. Those 9 titles are simply the bridge between authors and libraries; a way for us to help those two groups connect, all in an effort to help more readers find the perfect book.

In order to help spread this overall mission, one of our partners, ALA's United for Libraries, recently interviewed me about the program. From the opening of that piece:
United for Libraries: What exactly inspired the idea for the Summer Scares program? 
Spratford: Author Grady Hendrix, JG Faherty, and I were all on a panel together at StokerCon [a popular annual horror-based convention] in March. The topic of discussion was, “How do we introduce the horror genre to a broader audience?” There are a lot of people out there interested, but having trouble finding titles. And we came up with an idea to suggest a list of titles that were vetted by us, the Horror Writers Association. We wanted [the list] to say, “Hey, we’re experts, and these are good books—here’s a place to start.” 
The idea was to launch it in conjunction with StokerCon—since the next one is in May, we thought it would be a good idea to put it in with Summer Reading.
United for Libraries: What are some of the criteria the Summer Scares committee looks for in a book that leads it to becoming a potential recommendation? 
Spratford: We’re looking for, quite honestly, books with authors who are willing to participate—that’s half the program. We want, at the very least, for the authors to be available to make a virtual appearance. This isn’t just about how good the book is. The program is more about connecting books with potential readers and giving people a chance to interact with horror authors, especially the younger readers. to be able to interact with the author behind [the story] just makes reading come alive for them. So we really are looking for that interaction between the authors, the libraries, and their patrons. 
We’re making sure that all of the books we’re considering are age-appropriate and critically acclaimed, but widely available, so that they’re easily accessible to libraries. To ensure that the list is inclusive and diverse, we are requiring that at least 50% of the titles are written by female authors, and that at least 30% are “own voice” titles. 
Even if an author’s book isn’t chosen, we are going to give them a chance under the Horror Writers’ Association to go visit the libraries, the schools, and talk about the titles that were chosen. They’ll get a chance to promote themselves, too, in the process. 
The entire program is about promoting horror—the entire genre—as a great reading option for all ages. 
To read the entire interview click here. And if you want to participate as an author or a library worker,  go to the Summer Scares FAQ page for directions.

And remember what I always say.... Your horror readers are not monsters, they just like to read about them.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Recording Access for Library Reads and NoveList FREE Genre Training

As I mentioned here, Library Reads and NoveList have teamed up to offer free genre training. The first one is now available. I watched the recording myself on Wednesday. You can access the recording below, but also, please note that slides are also available in the "Resources" section.

This is a wonderful SF genre training tool. I learned a lot and I have been researching all the speculative genres for a year now [details on that here].

Are you intimidated at the thought of helping science fiction readers? Whether your readers are fans of dystopian reads (like the Divergent series) or Afrofuturism works (like the Broken Earth novels), let NoveList and LibraryReads break down the best science fiction has to offer your readers—from alien invasions to weird science.

Join Stephen Sposato, manager of Content Curation at Chicago Public Library, and NoveList’s own Gillian Speace as they cover:
  • Why science fiction is so popular
  • How science fiction developed including classics, newcomers, and awards to know
  • Subgenres and crossovers
  • NoveList insider information on genre headings, themes, appeal terms, and more
Also included is a bonus 15-minute training on tips and where to access genre-related information. 

The webinar is now archived. 

Click below to watch the recording or skip ahead to the training session that took place after the webinar.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

RA for All Virtual Roadshow for PCI Webinars: 2018 Year in Review

Once again, I am presenting a year in review wrap up webinar. The live version will be from 2-3 eastern today via PCI webinars. The state of Florida has exclusive rights to the live presentation; however, anyone can pay to view the archived version after today. And, many library system all over the country provide viewing of the archives of PCI Webinars for free to their members. For example, my home library system RAILS has access here for all members.

I am extremely excited to give this 100% brand new program. I have been creating a version of a "year in review" program for the last 5 years. Not only do I love spending the time assessing trends and sharing them with all of you, in order for you to save time and ultimately serve your patrons better, but also, I have enjoyed the fact that I can now go back and see how things have changed across a longer time frame.

Today's program is fun and educational, filled with many links to articles by others assessing the year that was, easy access to tons of best lists, and quick links to longer pieces by me.

So while only some of you can view the live today, many of you will still be able to view the archive here when it is made available [you can even have your library buy access to this single webinar]. AND, all of you can see the slides and handout below.

The slides even have some of my speaking notes.

Links below. I hope to "see" some of you there either today or at some time in the future.

Link to live slide
Link to handout

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What I'm Reading: The Bird King [Star] and The Very Best of Caitlin Kiernan

The January 1 issue of Booklist featured 2 reviews by me. The first is one of the BEST books I have read in a long time. The second, is a solid collection by one of the best speculative fiction writers of our era. Read on....

The Bird King.

Wilson, G. Willow (author).

Feb. 2019. 440p. Grove, $26 (9780802129031); e-book (9780802146847)
First published January 1, 2019 (Booklist).

With her latest novel, Wilson [Alif the Unseen] has written a historical fantasy set during the apex of the violence, bigotry, and hysteria of the Spanish Inquisition, but it is also a book for our current, troubling times. Fatima is a young concubine in the court of the last Muslim Sultan in Spain. She has lived a life of wealth and prosperity, but it has been at the cost of her freedom. When her one true friend Hassan, a royal mapmaker whose deft hand can draw maps that bend reality, is about to be sacrificed by the Sultan in order to satisfy the Inquisitors, Fatima risks everything to escape with him. With the help of various Jinni and unlikely allies, Fatima and Hassan go on a journey that tests their endurance and their faith. This is a novel that thoughtfully contemplates the meaning of concepts like love, power, religion, and freedom, it asks the reader to question their own beliefs, stories, and traditions, and challenges all to listen to and accept each other as people, not as holders of a specific ideology. But even while exploring all of these heavy issues, this is also a fun, immersive, fantastical adventure that moves at a brisk pace, sweeping the reader through lush settings, across dangerous terrain, through exciting battles big and small, and eventually out on the open sea. It is in equal turns exhilarating, heart wrenching, joyous, and ultimately, life affirming. Fatima is a young woman who doesn’t belong anywhere, but refuses to accept her dismal fate, takes control of her life, and creates her own family and a true home. Obvious comparisons can be made to Chakraborty’s City of Brass and Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni but don’t forget about Novik’s Uprooted also.

YA/Mature Readers: Teen readers of historical fantasy will love this, though there is one near-rape scene.

Further Appeal: This was a completely absorbing read, and it had something for everyone. It is equal parts historical, adventure and fantasy. The characters- especially Fatima and Hassan-- were excellently drawn. The history, religion, gender, gay rights, immigration, and class issues are thoughtfully contemplated without sacrificing the adventure. That was astounding to me as I read it. I would be caught up in the plot and when I took a break, I couldn't stop thinking about the themes and issues Wilson was injecting into such a fun read.

Wilson's writing is lyrical, lush and cinematic. Her descriptions captivate and enthrall. There are action sequences, daring escapes, dangerous fights, magical creatures, and the last third [including the ending] is inspiring.

I also didn't have much time to address this in the review, but there is a folklore theme, a recurring story of "The Bird King," but it also leads to a larger conversation about people. the stories they tell, and their similarities across cultures. 

The ending is resolved but slightly open, in that it leaves you thinking not in that you don't know what happens.

This is a book that can be read and enjoyed for its historical aspects, but it also has A LOT to say about today. It is a must read that will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers.

Three Words That Describe This Book: lush, thought provoking, strong female protagonist

Readalikes: I listed three above and if you use the links there in the review, they lead to even more. I would highly suggest you start with Novik even though it is the only suggestion without a Middle East theme. Her work is the most similar in terms of the overall appeal-- from writing style to themes.

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan.

Kiernan, Caitlín R. (author).

Feb. 2019. 448p. Tachyon, paper, $17.95 (9781616963026); e-book, $9.99 (9781616963033)First published January 1, 2019 (Booklist).

Kiernan is among the most critically acclaimed authors of dark fantasy and horror alive today, but precisely because her work has always pushed at the boundaries of genre fiction, presenting weird, dark, and unsettling tales that are non-linear, grotesque, and disorienting, mainstream success has eluded her. This collection, the newest of many that have tried to compile the best short fiction from over 250 of Kiernan stories, focuses on the harder to find short works, those that were only published in long sold out, limited editions. The result is a volume that presents a mere snapshot of her genius, showcasing how she plays with gender, creates tension that progresses to the level of nightmare, and crafts a story where beginnings and endings don’t matter, rather it is about the characters, their struggle, and really humanity itself. Yet despite the darkness at each story’s core, there is also beauty in these lyrical compelling, and intriguing tales that are nearly impossible to stop reading. Fans may have read some of these stories before, but many readers who have more recently been introduced to works of writers with more mainstream attention like Carmen Maria Machado, Jeff VanderMeer, or China Mieville, will be glad to find this volume on your shelves so that they can discover a writer who inspired them all.

Further Appeal: Since this was a story collection and honestly, the stories were all so different that focusing on summaries a few wasn't helpful in a review, I focused heavily on the overall appeal of Kiernan above.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys speculative fiction that is hard to define, where the storytelling is not linear, the language beautiful even when describing awful things, and the tone dark and tense, but where the characters are key.

Three Words That Describe This Book: character-centered, fluid story telling, atmospheric

Readalikes: I mentioned three of the best writers of weird fiction today and I have links to other places here on the blog where you can find more suggestions of readalikes.

Also, the Shirley Jackson award nominee list [an award Kiernan has been nominated for and won many times] is another place to look for readalikes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Library Reads: February 2019

Today is Library Reads day and that means three things here on RA for All:
  1. I post the list and tag it “Library Reads” so that you can easily pull up every single list with one click.
  2. I can remind you that even though the newest list is always fun to see, it is the older lists where you can find AWESOME, sure bet suggestions for patrons that will be on your shelf to actually hand to them right now. The best thing about Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
    So get out there and suggest a good read to someone today. I don’t care what list or resource you use to find the suggestion, just start suggesting books.

    Also, please remember to click here for my Library Reads 101 recap for everything you need to know about how to participate. And click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month.

    February 2019 LibraryReads

    Don’t miss the February 2019 Hall of Fame Winners! Scroll down or visit the Hall of Fame page.

    The Silent Patient

    by Alex Michaelides

    Published: 2/5/2019 by Celadon Books
    ISBN: 9781250301697
    “Led on a dark path, readers will quickly guess that there’s more to Alicia’s story than what meets the eye. But the big surprises lie in the deep betrayals and the shock of an ending. Dark, twisted, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and Ruth Ware.”
    Amy Fellows, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

    The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls

    by Anissa Gray

    Published: 2/19/2019 by Berkley
    ISBN: 9781984802439
    “A beautifully written novel told from the viewpoints of three sisters whose dysfunctional childhood has left deep wounds. Family also serves as a source of strength as the women face the damage done and try to heal. For readers who enjoy Tayari Jones and Jessmyn Ward.”
    Janine Walsh, East Meadow Public Library, East Meadow, NY

    Daughter of Moloka’i

    by Alan Brennert

    Published: 2/19/2019 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250137661
    “Fans of Moloka’i and new readers will adore this interesting, heartfelt sequel. Taken from her parents as an infant, Ruth is adopted by a loving family who experiences more than their fair share of upheaval and heartache balanced with love and joy. Readers of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko may enjoy.”
    Sharon Layburn, South Huntington Public Library, Huntington Station, NY 

    Finding Dorothy: A Novel

    by Elizabeth Letts

    Published: 2/12/2019 by Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 9780525622109
    “In examining the meeting between Judy Garland and Maud Baum, Letts weaves two narratives: Hollywood in 1938-39, and Baum’s childhood and marriage to L. Frank Baum, author of the book that inspired the movie. A fascinating behind-the-scenes story for Ozfans.”
    Lauren McLaughlin, Wilton Library Association, Wilton, CT

    The Girls at 17 Swann Street: A Novel

    by Yara Zgheib

    Published: 2/5/2019 by St. Martin’s Press
    ISBN: 9781250202444
    “A mesmerizing glimpse inside a rehab program for victims of anorexia. This fictional account of one young woman’s life-saving journey is eye-opening with its descriptions and statistics. For readers who enjoy fiction about social and psychological issues, and books by Wally Lamb and Chris Bohjalian.”
    Marilyn Sieb, L.D. Fargo Library, Lake Mills, WI 

    Good Riddance

    by Elinor Lipman

    Published: 2/5/2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    ISBN: 9780544808256
    “An annotated yearbook is an interesting plot device, and Lipman populates it with likable characters that you can’t help but root for and with “villains” so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh at them. Perfectly paced, engagingly written, and fun. For fans of Adriana Trigiani.”
    Lorri Steinbacher, Ridgewood Public Library, Ridgewood, NJ 

    The Huntress: A Novel

    by Kate Quinn

    Published: 2/26/2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
    ISBN: 9780062740373
    “This is a novel I can happily recommend to patrons who like historical fiction. It excels in both plotting and character development. Nina Markova, a bomber pilot stranded behind enemy lines, becomes the target of a Nazi assassin. For fans of Jackdaws by Ken Follett and Up In Honey’s Room by Elmore Leonard.
    Maria Gruener, Watertown Regional Library, Watertown, SD 

    Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos

    by Lucy Knisley

    Published: 2/26/2019 by First Second
    ISBN: 9781626728080
    “This wonderful graphic novel is also the most honest, comprehensive, revealing, and helpful book on pregnancy, miscarriages, birth, breastfeeding, and everything in between that has ever been written. I wish I had had this book as I was leveled with morning sickness for nine months.”
    Jesica Sweedler DeHart, Neill Public Library, Pullman, WA

    The Last Romantics: A Novel

    by Tara Conklin

    Published: 2/5/2019 by William Morrow
    ISBN: 9780062358202
    “A fresh look at family dynamics, this is the story of four siblings and their love for one another spanning their entire lives. For fans of The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeny and The Past by Tessa Hadley.”
    Jennifer Dayton, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT 

    The Priory of the Orange Tree

    by Samantha Shannon

    Published: 2/26/2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
    ISBN: 9781635570298
    “Brilliant world building; multi-dimensional characters; magic; friendship; plots; secrets; romance; and battles between good and evil…. this book has it all. The best new fantasy I’ve read in years. I eagerly await the next installment. For fans of Naomi Novik.”
    Alexa Newman, Algonquin Area Public Library, Algonquin, IL

    The Lost Man

    by Jane Harper

    Published: 2/5/2019 by Flatiron Books
    ISBN: 9781250105684
    “When rancher Cameron Bright is found dead in the unforgiving Australian Outback, his older brother Nathan, a social pariah, is left to uncover family secrets and ferret out the mystery of Cameron’s demise. Harper’s tense standalone will captivate her fans and leave them eager for more.”
    Lori Hench, Baltimore County Public Library, Baltimore, MD 
    Bearskin by James McLaughlin
    Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
    The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna
    The Round House by Louise Erdrich
    The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

    I Owe You One: A Novel

    by Sophie Kinsella

    Published: 2/5/2019
    by The Dial Press
    ISBN: 9781524799014
    “Kinsella is back with a sweet, thoughtful book about family loyalty and breaking out on your own. Fixie Farr is trying to keep her family’s store afloat while her siblings plot expensive plans to modernize. Meanwhile, Fixie is juggling two interested suitors. For readers who love Meg Cabot and Marian Keyes.”
    Kathryn Neal, Skiatook Library, Skiatook, OK
    Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes
    A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff
    The Perfect Find by Tia Williams
    Life’s a Beach by Clare Cook
    A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde