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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What I'm Reading: Goodreads Updates [Third 2019 Installment]

Today I have another installment of my catch up reviews. This post should serves as a reminder that I do periodic updates of all of the books I read for "fun" on Goodreads and then compile them here so that the titles are searchable on the blog too. 

I am also attaching the links in this post to the titles I included on my Horror Novellas for Libraries column in this month's Library Journal because those titles only appeared on the horror blog, and like I said above, I want to make sure all the books I have read are accessible via a title search on this blog for me as much as for you. Plus, now they have been assigned "three words."

See below for the authors and titles as well as my three words. Use the links [click on titles] to read the full review on Goodreads.

And Happy Thanksgiving. I should have one more quick Goodreads update before the end of the year.

From the Novellas Column [minus One for the Road which was reviewed on the blog previously], but I have added my three words for each book here on the blog
  • Ormeshadow by Priya Sharma [mythical, menacing sense of place, coming of age]
  • Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo Serna [harrowing, character centered, disorienting]
  • Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering [unreliable narrator, thought provoking, trauma]
  • A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs [cosmic, disorienting, thought provoking]

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Call to Action Reminder-- Don't Shelve Your Series in Alpha Order

Today I am reposting my demand that we stop shelving series in Alpha Order. This post is from 2018 and it has a very useful comment at the end of it from a library who was working on this issue.

I use one of the most extreme series authors, Nora Roberts as an example in this post, but most are not this hard.

But I am also updating this Call to Action by adding some more general information about how we present books to our community.

The main reason you NEED to shelve books in series order is simple:
I am so done with library workers who act like they are the gate keepers of their collections. These people act as guards, trying to find reasons to restrict access. This is dumb. If you think like this, you are wrong. You cannot win this argument. And, you should probably find another line of work.

As I say this, trust me, I realize that many library directors and administrators are the ones who think most like this. I fight them constantly about their outdated and harmful opinions about how to serve their public. I write posts like this to help you have arguments to bring to them. As a widely accepted expert in all things RA Service, at least my word will carry some critical weight as you attempt to change their misplaced minds.

Look, the fact of the matter is your books are meant to be off the shelf, not held hostage on the shelf. You are not 100% successful in your work at the public library until every single item is checked out at the same time and the shelves are bare. So.....job scrutiny, yes, but also this is the goal to strive for. If setting the books free, to be circulated and enjoyed is our ultimate goal, then our policies and attitudes as a profession needs to shift.

Placing books on the shelf where patrons are most likely going to look for them, and then making sure your catalog reflects that [so they can find them when browsing the shelves AND while using the OPAC] is your ultimate goal.

Children's librarians do this all the time with popular series. So LEGO books, for example, are all together on the shelf and use a call number of LEG, NOT the various author's last names. Kids who want LEGO books or Star Wars or whatever is popular at the moment, will look. under the series NOT the author. My local library has gone so far as to pull out "counting" and "alphabet books" and designated them as a "series," even though they are not in a unified series. But, parents and kids look for them in this way.

And guess what, that is fine. Stop getting hives about the fact that it is NOT proper cataloging. Libraries are allowed to organize their materials in the way that makes the most sense to the way their patrons access the collection. Cataloging rules are a guide NOT a law. As I say below, there are no library police to put you in library jail if you disobey.

[Also, and this is a side argument but needs to at least be mentioned here, why are we so attached to LC subject headings. They are extremely racist. When patrons encounter them in the catalog it is a microaggression at best and a hostile attack at worst. So why are we so quick to defend the RULES then?]

The point I am making below is that we need to show our patrons [not just tell them] that we care about their access and experience. Yes, recataloging all of your series is a lot of work, but it can be done and is ultimately in service to your patrons....those patrons whose books these are in the first place.

Below is the original post. I will back tomorrow with a catch up reviews on all of my personal reading from the last few months and then away until Monday.

Call to Action: Don’t Shelve You Series in Alpha Order

Today I have a very easy Call to Action, one that a few libraries are starting to do, one that puts the patrons and their needs first, one that there is no good reason for you not to do--
Notice I say there is “no good reason” for you not to do this. I know many of you are literally shaking with anxiety after reading that statement. Putting things in alphabetical order is what most librarians do; it’s what they live for; it is what grounds them, and I am pulling the rug out from under all of them. However, just because that is how we are most comfortable organizing of our materials does not mean it is the best way. Sorry people, tough love here.

Also, and I say this often in my talks to ease some of the anxiety the above statement causes, I promise, you will not go to library jail for not putting every single item in alpha order. [cue nervous laughter and looking over shoulders]

Alphabetical order works great for organizing fiction authors and then for arranging their books on the shelf in many cases. But, for series, it never makes sense because people want to read the series in the order the author wants them to, not because the alphabet sets the order. And when you have an author like Nora Roberts, who has a bazillion different series it makes even less sense.

Let’s take Roberts as an example right now. We should use the KDL What’s Next Database as our model on how to organize series on the shelf. Here is a screen shot of their entry for just first few series Roberts has.

Each series is “shelved” alphabetically in this database. Then as you explore each series [as shown above in the Concannon Sisters Trilogy] those are in numerical order. In other words, in the order that the patron wants to read them.

With an author like Roberts, who has almost 3 dozen series under her name, this shelving by series alphabetically and then shelving the series in its written order is a game changer. The Roberts shelf is a mess with some books from the same series a shelf or two apart. Why do we do this to our patrons? Why do we make finding the books so harder them? Do we love alpha order more than our readers? Of course not.

Now Nora Roberts is an extreme example. Let’s take her series under the name JD Robb for example instead, currently at 47 books and counting. In this case we have a single author whose series is shelved completely out of order, and it really matters what order you read it in! Eve Dallas is in a different place in book 5 than she is in book 35. Why can’t we put them in numerical order? Why do our patrons have to search on their own to figure the order out? Why isn’t it clear on the shelf. I don’t know why? Better yet, why have we never asked ourselves how confusing and unhelpful this series of 47 popular books in no useful order is?

No wonder people don’t think we want to help them. We don’t make it easy for them. It's like we are taunting them. Seriously, that is how it feels to readers. I am not exaggerating. I have asked patrons, and trying to navigate a new to them series that already has a lot of books in it is a big source of library anxiety.

Okay, now the biggest argument against shelving in numerical order- how else will we make sure that they are marked appropriately in the catalog and on the book themselves in order for them to be easily reshelved and located by patrons and library workers alike. How will we make sure it is consistent and clear.

Yes it is true that our cataloging methods are all based on alpha order, but guess what? The cataloging systems are not the law. Again, you won’t go to jail. We have the right to create local cataloging changes to serve our patrons better.

Luckily here, there are many libraries who are beginning to do this, so I know of some models to share.

The easiest way I have seen it that a cutter is created for the series and then a number appears after it. So a JD Robb book would be under ROB, first and then IND 1 would be added to the title Naked in Deathsince it is the first book in the In Death Series. It would look like this on that book:


If an author has multiple series, you cutter each series and assign numbers. Adding this one extra call number allows the book to be shelved properly every time and takes up very little extra space on the spine of the book.

Again, use KDL’s What’s Next database as your model. Then you have a standard source to base your cataloging off of. You can insure that if your cataloging person changes, the standard will be kept. It is your professional source material to make your cataloging choices for series.

I am making this call to action-- shelving series in numerical order-- one of my personal goals. Everywhere I go I will be telling libraries to do this. And you know what, there is no argument any one can make against me. It is easier for the library workers, the shelvers, and most importantly the patrons. It puts the reader and their needs first. It shows them with our actions that we want them to be able to use the library easily. It makes us look more friendly and helpful without even talking to anyone.

And the only argument those of you who resist have is that it is different than how we have always done things.

Doing things the way we have always done them is a terrible and lazy argument. Progress has never been made in any arena on the back of that argument.

Often with my Call to Action posts I leave it up to you to try it or not. Today, I am demanding you start seriously considering making this change.

If you need help convincing your supervisors, let me know.

For past Call to Action posts, click here.


Jessi said...
Thanks for sharing this tip! We are in the middle of making this change at my library and I'm so excited about it. It is a lot of initial work and we have had staff and patrons express concern about the change, but we're also hearing good things. We are using new and replacement copies to trigger an update to catalog records and spine labels for the entire series. This means that within a year any series with new materials added will be updated. This will also be helpful with weeding, as staff can start to see series that are no longer being updated and series gaps. Keep up the good work ...

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Double Edged Sword of "Heritage Month" Displays

I been asked the same question about how "Heritage Month" displays do or do not fit into an EDI philosophy of RA Service at least 4 times in the last 10 days, so I thought it was time to answer it more publicly on the blog.

[I will also be linking this post in my EDI webinar so people can access it within context more easily. Here is the most recent version of that program.]

Let me take a small step back and set the stage with some foundational information for this discussion. I argue that the first step in making sure your RA Service considers Equity, Diversity and Inclusion issues every step of the way begins where we always begin in libraries-- with an EDI mission statement. Ideally you would like your entire Department to adapt an EDI mission statement but since I know that would take time, I believe that you should start with yourself, lead by example, and at least make sure the work you do puts EDI at the forefront of your planning, thoughts, and actions.

Mine lives here always. And here is where I wrote about how and why I developed it.

When you put an EDI lens in front of everything you do, you can't help but assess and consider how we are promoting our collections and suggesting to readers every single day. This EDI mission statement is there to guide me and remind me of my ultimate goal every single day. I am so grateful for how it has focused me on what is important.

After I spend 45+ minutes explaining my EDI and RA Service philosophy in my training sessions, inevitably I get a questions about "Heritage Month" displays. This happens because one of my main arguments is that diverse titles should appear in every list and display, all of the time, and that we are not being equitable and inclusive if we only highlight own voices titles on displays in their designated month-- so Native American titles now, LGBTQ in June, African American in February, etc.....

Only displaying these titles during their designated months is a microaggression, I explain, because it assumes the white, hetero-normative, abled body titles are the standard and everything else is "the other." No matter how well meaning you are, this outcome is a problem.

The basic question is then, "Is it okay to do Heritage Month" displays ever or are those a microaggression by default, always.

My answer to these askers is a "No, but..."

There is nothing wrong with utilizing these months as a marketing and promotional event to highlight the breadth of your diverse offerings.


If this is the only time you put, for example, "Native American" works on display, that is a HUGE problem.

Many people I work with use their participation in "Heritage Month" displays as their excuse to not actively audit their other ways of displaying and suggesting titles to readers [whether passively or directly]. The excuses I hear go, "Well I make sure to highlight them at least 1x a year, so I'm doing my part."

However, if you only put out diverse books in a display that is about the diversity of those titles that is BAD, WRONG, and NOT OKAY.

Instead you should highlight specific underrepresented groups during that designated month AND you should also make sure to include diverse and own voices titles in every list you publish, in every displays, and in the suggestions you are booktalking. You should do all of that. And, if you are only doing 1 thing, it should be diversifying all of your displays and then NOT only ghettoizing these works to their assigned month because only doing that is the biggest problem.

You can read a book with, for instance, a LGBTQ frame any month of the year, just like I argue you can read horror any month too.

We have to actively audit the titles we include in all of the various ways we suggest and make sure the options are inclusive....all of the time. And those displays, every single display, especially when the topic is something generic like "Fantasy" or "Hot Reads for Cold Nights," that is where we have to make sure we are being inclusive and considering the widest range of voices. We should have titles by people from all backgrounds represented.

So again, for this popular question about if "Heritage Month" displays are okay..."Yes, But" is the answer.

And if you have further EDI based questions for me, contact me. When I know the concerns that those of you in the trenches have, I am able to develop content to help you both help patrons and make arguments to your supervisors the help you institute needed change.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Using Best Books Lists to Help You NOT to Overwhelm You

I wanted to end this week with my annual reminder that "BEST" season can be overwhelming if you don't have the correct mindset about it. New lists are coming at us every day, while patrons are coming in and asking for the same books appearing on those lists. But we need to remember, that while those best lists are bringing patrons in with a specific book to ask for, that does not mean they HAVE to get that book. In most cases, they just want A book, one that will be "good" because someone else who knows better said it was "best." Many of our patrons don't know or realize that we can help with their wants, their leisure requests. These list provide them with a tangible request to bring to us, to start the conversation about their reading needs, in a way that lessens their anxiety about asking and "bothering" us.

Rather than feel overwhelmed about all the "best" books lists, and being annoyed that everyone is asking for the same books, book that are already checked out and have long holds queues; instead we need to celebrate the bounty that is the "best list" and use this bounty to our advantage. And not just now, at the end of the year, but all year long. [Psst....a best book is still best in January or June or any month really; no one removes that status after the best book season ends.]

Let's begin with a little basic patron psychology. When a patron comes in asking for a specific title off of the best lists, understand that this is not the only book they will accept. As I said above, this is a specific request for a book, but what the patron is really asking for is a suggestion of a book that will be worth their time.

You can tell them that the book they want is out now, and you can take a hold, but did they read [insert similar book from last year's best list here]? Statements like, "This was on last year's best lists." Or, "Many people never got a chance to read this 2 years ago when it was on the lists." Or something that reminds them that best lists come out every year and no one has ever read all of them.

Best lists are a treasure trove of information that can help you to help readers all year long. Today's bests are a great way to bring people into the library to ask for leisure reads. They are one of our best marketing tools [along with Summer Reading], but they are just that...a marketing tool. The current list is helpful to bring them in, but it is the accumulated backlist of best lists, from everywhere and anywhere that become a great resource to help readers find a "pre-approved," already vetted as best by someone, read.

But where to find all of the best lists, especially the backlist versions? That could take forever. Thankfully, that is not the case. They are all easily available in one place thanks to Largehearted Boy.

Largehearted Boy has the ultimate aggregated list of every possible best book list here. It is updated daily AND there is easy access to past lists. And I am not kidding about easy. At the end of the list of lists, he provides a linked list of the archives from every past year. Right there, in plain sight, with single click access.

This is a resource I use all year long. In fact, it is one of my favorite and most used resources to connect people with their next good read.

Again, best lists are not only a great option now, at the end of the year, but also anytime of year. Have a patrons who wants a great romance in May, but has read all the newest ones? Go to Largehearted Boy's most current best books archive. Do a "find" for the word romance. Multiple best romance lists appear. Click through and look at them together. Read them all? Go back a year [at the bottom of the page and choose "2018"] and repeat.

They are still best and you probably still own a majority of the books from the last 2-5 years of "best lists." This archive contains every type of best book in every imaginable reading category, and from every publication, even the ones that barely cover books. And you can read "best" books anytime of year, not just at the end of a year. There is no law against it, regardless of the fact that many of us who serve leisure readers act like that is exactly the case and never give out or promote "best" books except from November-January.

So let's just stop, okay. Don't be so closed minded. And give your patrons a little more credit. They are not as simple minded as only wanting the exact best book from the exact list they have brought in. [even if they insist they do; those people just don't understand that you have more of the same for them in last's years list from the same publication. That's not their job to know that, It is yours. And it is your job to communicate it to them in a way that makes them excited to take a book home.]

Resources are our friends when we help leisure readers and best lists, especially the backlist ones, are our "best friends" because they help us find the perfect, new to them, read for our patrons-- all year long.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

RA for All Roadshow Visits East Aurora [IL] School District 131

In what I think will be my final in person appearance of 2019 [I can't 100% rule out a last minute local appearance], I am traveling to the second largest city in IL, Aurora, to spend the afternoon working with the School Library Staff of the East Aurora School District.

This district serves grades K-12 and I will be working with library staff in small groups as part of one of the district's half day staff training sessions.

I am excited to provide this training for a few reasons:

  1. I volunteer at the school library near me 2 times a month and I now I get to share some of what I do and learn from this experience with fellow school library people.
  2. I am going to be able to work with staff in small groups, presenting multiple times. The intimacy of the workshops is something I don't normally get to do. We are really going to be able to make connections that will stick and have impact, at least that is the plan.
  3. This is a school district serving children who are in need. I cleared my schedule to make this event happen. Helping to energize and train the school library staff on how to get the kids excited to read books for fun will make a huge difference in these kids' lives.
  4. I have confidence in the leadership team who are bringing me in to keep the learning going. This is the beginning of a larger plan to push leisure reading more into the spotlight for everything the district does, not just in the library.

Today's workshops will follow Becky's 10 Rules of RA Service

Finally, since this may very well be my final in person appearance of the year, it is a good time to remind you that it is not too late to hire me for 2020 but at 2019's rates.  Click here for those rates. And you can click on the RA for All logo on any page of the blog to contact me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Library Journal Best of 2019

Click here for the Library Journal Best Books 2019 homepage

I am so proud to have been a small part of the team of contributors who put this huge list of the Best Books of 2019 together for Library Journal.

With 17 categories, there is something here for every reader. The categories are also easy to use, including things like "pop fiction," "crime fiction," and many nonfiction categories. This is a list you can use with readers as you ask them what they are looking for in their next good read.

But, most importantly, the entire best books collection, each and every list, is diverse and  inclusive, embracing the full range of the very best books published this year.

Congrats to all, both the authors who wrote these amazing books and my fellow contributors who did a great job selecting for each list.

Click on each category to link to that specific list. 

Crime Fiction


Literary Fiction

Pop Fiction



Short Stories

World Literature


Biography & Memoir

Cooking & Food


Religion & Spirituality

Science & Technology

Social Sciences


Graphic Novels

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Visits Library Journal Professional Development Series

Later today I am presenting as part of the final day of Library Journal's Evaluating, Auditing, and Diversifying Your Collections class.

While I have been giving this talk a lot this Fall, it has changed every time. Click through for the slides and notes.

And if you are joining the class, I have added 2 polls to the presentation.

See you there or visit the slides here.

Slide access here

Monday, November 18, 2019

Library Reads: December 2019

  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.
  4. Every book now has at least 1 readalike that is available to hand out RIGHT NOW. Book talk the upcoming book, place a hold for it, and then hand out that readalike title for while they wait. If they need more titles before their hold comes in, use the readalike title to identify more readalike titles. And then keep repeating. Seriously, it is that easy to have happy, satisfied readers.
    Also, the Library Reads Board has also started another great book discovery and suggestion tool for you, a monthly What We're Reading column. This means there are even more library worker approved titles, new and old, for you to choose from. 

    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.

    You voted, we counted, and December's LibraryReads Favorite is:

    Such A Fun Age
    by Kiley Reid
    (G.P. Putnam's Sons)

    ”Full of nuanced characters and a very current plot about race and privilege,
    Such a Fun Age will keep you slightly off-balance and questioning how you would react. Emira is a character that you’ll love for her feistiness and strength of character. Perfect for fans of Americanah, Red at the Bone, and An American Marriage.”

    Linda Quinn, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT

    NoveList read-alike: That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

    A Novel
    by Jeffrey Colvin (Amistad)

    “Africaville is a settlement of Jamaican people run out of their homes by the British and dumped in cold, foreign Canada. Colvin weaves the story of Kath Ella and her family through decades of ongoing racial prejudice and injustice, portraying the love among characters and the tenacity of some determined to find happiness. For readers who enjoyed Homegoing and The Underground Railroad.”

    —Lisa Casper, Highlands Ranch Library, Highlands Ranch , CO
    NoveList read-alike: Dominion by Calvin Baker

    The Dead Girls Club
    A Novel
    by Damien Angelica Walters

    (Crooked Lane Books)

    “An engaging story, full of twists and turns. Chapters alternate from Heather's childhood experiences to her present to form the whole story. More creepy than scary, pick this up if you want a story full of dread, suspense, childhood memories, death, and plenty of surprises. For fans of The Turn of the Key and The Silent Patient.”

    —Rebecca Kelley, Richland Library, Columbia, SC 
    NoveList read-alike: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

    Good Girls Lie
    by J. T. Ellison

    “Sinister and atmospheric, this page-turner elevates the thriller genre with descriptive writing and well-drawn characters. Ash arrives at the Goode School with secrets of her own. Following an honor code is difficult enough (no lies allowed), but throw in secret societies and overly privileged students, and the scene is set for murder. For readers who liked The Secret History and Watching You.”

    —Douglas Beatty, Baltimore County Public Library, Baltimore, MD
    NoveList read-alike: The Secret Place by Tana French

    Husband Material
    by Emily Belden
    (Graydon House)

    “Charlotte, a young widow, is thrown for a loop when her husband’s ashes appear at her door. As a coder for social media influencers, she develops an app to help find a mate but uses it to keep potential dates away. And then a secret from her husband’s past threatens to destroy the tenuous ties of friendship and love she has found. A fun read for fans of Kristan Higgins and Sophie Kinsella.”

    —Suzanne Christensen, Spanish Fork Public Library, Spanish Fork, UTNoveList read-alike: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

    A Madness of Sunshine
    by Nalini Singh (Berkley)

    "With a well-drawn cast of characters and a vivid New Zealand setting, this book slowly draws you in, picks up speed, and takes you on a dark, twisty ride. For fans of Then She Was Gone and All the Missing Girls."

    —Sheryle Gouker, Redstone MWR Library, Huntsville, AL 
    NoveList read-alike: The Dry by Jane Harper

    Meg and Jo
    by Virginia Kantra

    "Little Women’s March family is brought into the present day. Here Marmee is a North Carolina goat farmer, Mr. March an idealistic and often absent Army chaplain, and Jo a NYC food blogger and frustrated writer. For readers who loved A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley."

    —Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY
    NoveList read-alike: The Spring Girls by Anna Todd

    A Novel
    by Sara Shepard

    "Set in an elite private school, with a large cast of characters, this book has it all: scandals, affairs, and murder. I love the way the multiple perspectives intersect and intertwine. For fans of Gossip Girl and Big Little Lies".

    —Aryssa Damron, DC Public Library, Washington, DC
    NoveList read-alike: Just Between Us by Rebecca Drake

    The Wives
    A Novel
    by Tarryn Fisher

    (Graydon House)

    "Fisher has a knack for telling you a story where there’s no anticipating the twists and turns, and The Wives was no exception. A psychological thriller so immersive that I consumed it in a single sitting. For fans of The Wife Between Us and The Silent Wife."

    —Brie Hopkins, Newport Public Library, Newport, RI
    NoveList read-alike: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

    Would Like To Meet
    by Rachel Winters (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
    "Evie recreates famous movie meet-cutes as a way to inspire a jerk client to write a screenplay, and learns a lot about herself in the process. For fans of Meg Cabot and Jennifer Crusie."

    —Kassie Ettefagh, High Point Public Library, High Point, NC
    NoveList read-alike: Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

    Friday, November 15, 2019

    ARRTCon 2019 Recap, Thank Yous, and Content Access

    Yesterday the Adult Reading Round Table hosted our every other year, full day RA Conference-- ARRTCon. Click here for the schedule and details.

    We were at literal capacity and had people drive from as far away as Columbus, OH and Central Indiana to join us.

    To the right is a picture of that crowd taken from the back of the room by Steering Committee member Emily Vinci during Library Reads Executive Director, Rebecca Vnuk's Keynote address to start the day.

    Which reminds me, I want to begin by thanking our sponsors, Library Reads, Sourcebooks, and NoveList. All sponsors provided us with presenters for the event at no cost to ARRT. Sourcebooks provided a Book Buzz [handouts will be available to all online] and brought enough ARCs from across all adult genres and nonfiction for everyone to take at least 3 home. NoveList not only sent someone to present about using themes in the database, but also paid an honorarium to our guest author, Gabino Iglesias.

    Speaking of Iglesias, to say he knocked it out of the park would be an understatement. I was receiving texts and DMs during his talk from ppl in the audience praising him. To the left is the Tweet I did of the title of his keynote and a picture of him beginning that address with a reading from his book Coyote Songs.

    Now to the recap of what happened at ARRTCon. I have created a single search link all of the Twitter activity during the day. Click here to pull it up. And remember you do not need to have a Twitter Account in order to view the Tweets. Taken together they serve as notes for the day. Please note however, there were 3 times during the day when there were 3 breakout sessions going on at the same time. That could make the conversation during those times, a experienced through Tweets, a little more confusing

    ARRT has also created a page listing all of the presentations and break out sessions with a place to link the handouts. As of right now, not every presenter has turned in their slides, but mine are up for my presentation: #Own Voices for All Readers: Incorporating EDI Values into Readers' Advisory Service.

    Save the link, or you can visit the ARRT Programs page anytime to find it later. We are hoping to have all of the slides and handouts posted by early next week.

    I know not all of my readers could be there, but I hope that the Tweets, handouts and slide access will help you all get something out of the day of learning we presented yesterday.

    And finally, I want to give a special thank you to the staff at the Naperville Public Library, 95th Street Branch, and in particular, their building manager, Ellen Conlin and the entire facilities staff who set up and took down all of the tables and chairs and made sure garbage cans we emptied and available. Ellen herself was pitching in throughout the day. Everything went smoothly and much of that is because of the help we received [at no cost to ARRT]. Thank you all.

    Thursday, November 14, 2019

    Library Journal Best Books of 2019 Horror Preview

    Monday, Library Journal will be unveiling there entire Best Books of 2019 website, but since I was a part of the team choosing the horror titles I have been given special permission to unveil one specific title. And I am unveiling it today because the author of said book is one of the Keynote speakers at today's ARRTCon.

    [I will have a full report on what happened at ARRTCon on a separate day, including links to notes and any Twitter threads you can consult for notes.]

    Yes, I am talking about Gabino Iglesias and his amazing novel Coyote Songs which is literally the first book the we considered for the Best Horror of 2019 list, partially because of how good it is, but also because it was a late 2018 title that we had to make sure was eligible [spoiler, it was because it came out AFTER last year's list was published].

    Below, I am reposting my STAR review of Coyote Songs from Booklist. I cannot stress enough how amazing this book is. Not only is it lyrical, emotionally resonant, and compelling, but the issues and concerns about life at our Southern border, social justice, and how it manages to use fiction [and specifically tropes from Crime Noir and Horror] to deftly portray and explain a very complicated real life situation, left me breathless.

    So congratulations a few days early to Iglesias. We will be celebrating in Naperville with 130 of his new library friends. And to the rest of you, read my review and get an order in for Coyote Songs now because come Monday when it appears on the LJ Best Horror of 2019 list, you want to be able to say that it is "on order" so you can start taking holds ASAP.

    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 Worldby 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.