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.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Genre Fiction Sales Are Stronger Than Ever and You Need To Be Aware

This is my last post for September here on the main blog. What does that mean? Well it means starting Monday, this site is going to be playing second fiddle to RA for All Horror for the entirety of October. I will have more here on Monday, but for now, know that while this blog will post every weekday, my main attention is on 31 Days of Horror during October. 

And believe it or not, once Halloween passes, we are going to be knee deep into year end "Best" territory. In fact, soon I will have a HUGE announcement about my annual "Year in Review" webinar that I have been offering over the last few years through PCI Webinars. Just know that it is happening, but this year, I will have a new partner and because of that partnership, the webinar will be more widely available and completely FREE to view live. Details soon.

Which leads us to today post which touches on BOTH issue from the above. I am already keeping an eye out for articles and information which is summarizing year end trends and my Horror expertise is in high demand. So, when PW had this article about Bookstores experiencing HUGE increases in sales of genre fiction, my antennae went up.

I pulled out one quote from the story as an example:

While general fiction at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colo., grew by 7% in the first half of 2023 over the same period in 2022—after what adult book buyer Jeanne Costello described as two “awesome” years in 2021 and 2022—genre fiction continues to post bigger gains, including a 23% sales increase in mysteries, 26% in SFF, 36% in horror, and 64% in romance. “Art rises to the times we are living in,” Costello noted. “The past several years have dealt us some overwhelming problems, from the pandemic to extreme weather and deep political and cultural clashes. Romance and mystery allow us to process emotions and solve problems that elude us in our real lives. Horror helps to process trauma, and science fiction/fantasy can build worlds that can offer hope, featuring heroes and worlds that are saved in the end.”

Click here to read the full report.

At the end of each year I always cross reference book sales data and library circulation data and use the information in tandem to make larger proclamations about trends. You can see last year's slides from my 2022 Year in Review for an example.

Now, here in libraries we have been seeing an increase in genre readership for a few years, but some libraries ignore it. Why? Well even in 2023, I still see a bias in the library world that places "literary" titles above all others even though genre titles, especially Romance and Mystery, have always been our most widely circulating books.

The disdain many library workers have for "Genre" fiction is not hidden. Trust me, I encounter it all of the time, but even if you are one of those people who only promote genre titles because you have to, you cannot argue with sales data. If bookstores are clearing more space for genre, you should also be highlighting it more. 

And since it is going to be October, why not start with Horror. 

More on that starting 10/1, but it is all genres, so check out the full report and think about how you can incorporate this increase in sales into your RA work.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Resource Alert: Display Shelf from Library Journal

Library Journal has a new extremely useful  resource spearheaded by my editor, Melissa DeWild. It is called Display Shelf and it promises to give you two things as a resource, display inspiration and collection development help on a general topic, using both fiction and nonfiction.

The series began back in January of 2023 and a new topic is pushed out about 2x a month. Each topic has dozens of recent titles hat you can use to create a display, update your collections, or just book talk to patrons. And, rest assured, the lists are diverse and inclusive by default.

Here is a sampling of topics with links to that specific "Display Shelf.":

This is merely a random sample. You can click here to access all "Display Shelf" posts.

Add the link to your resources for displays ideas. Use the topics included as conversation starters and ask patrons to share their favorite titles for each topic. Remember, I have this post about how to turn conversion starters into a display, with specific advice on gathering answers from patrons in the library and online.

Finally, the topics used in "Display Shelf," are evergreen. You can use them for inspiration anytime you want to create a display or online list-- big or small. 

---> See also, this guest post from July 2023 by Lila Denning entitled, "Where to Find Book Display Ideas."

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Using Awards Lists As A RA Tool: Whiting Literary Magazine Prize

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool. 

Back in May, I wrote this post about how we should consider collecting literary magazines and shelving them with fiction so that more readers, who would enjoy them if only they knew of their existence, could discover them more easily. It was picked up by a few other library places and seemed to find a receptive audience. 

And then earlier this month, I saw this announcement of the Whiting Literary Magazine Prize Winners in PW. So, it seems like a good time to bring back this lit mag conversation.

If you want ideas on what literary magazines to start collecting go directly to the Whiting Literary Magazine Prize page. On one page they have all of the winners, with the magazine's "about" statement and the judges citation comments. Everything you need for the current and backlist winners on a single page. Very useful.

The collection development is waiting there for you to use it. You can easily go through the last few years of winners and decide which ones are best for your collection. Also check out my post for a few others that I recommend.

But you don't want to invest in buying/subscribing to these lit mags and simply let them languish on the shelf. As Robin Bradford likes to say, we need to buy to try, not buy to die. Too often we buy something great and then just hope people find it. And then, when people don't find it on their own, in our messy, overstuffed, and hard to browse collections, we say, oh no one wants these; we need to stop buying this.

NO. This is so wrong and counter to everything we should be doing, every day. When you buy something, especially a new format type, you need to give it a chance. Remember your RA Basics-- we promote the items that people will not find on their own. Click here for an entire post on that topic.

So, after you order a few literary magazines you need to do some merchandizing to let people know that you have added them. That you have this new format and it will be shelved with the fiction for leaguer readers to find it more easily in the place where they are browsing for leisure reading.

Of course this includes, displaying them prominently in the building and featuring the collection online, website and social media, newsletter (online and print), old fashioned signage, whatever you can. 

Write up a press release style blurb about the new collection. Talk about why you have purchased them, where you shelve them, and how you identified the ones to add (link to the Whiting award page). Use the write ups on the award home page to "book talk" the magazines. Feel free to use any of my language from this post as well.

Include this statement in all library communication for a month. Schedule social media posts, contact the local paper, add it to email newsletters, make it a news story on website. Use whatever you have in your marketing toolbox and give them a chance. And display them on their own.

Do not buy these lit mags for them to die. Make it clear that you want your patrons to give them a try. Often, all our patrons need is a small push to try something. Put it in front of them, make the argument as to why you, the professional, think they are worthy of the patrons leisure time, and then watch them circulate. If only 20% of the people who give them a try return to them, that is a HUGE success.

This is the perfect example of the spirit of this series of posts-- Using Awards Lists As A RA Tool. We can use it to suggest to readers, for collection development, and also to showcase what we have and get people excited to try something they never would have found without us.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Judging Books By Their Covers Via Me in The Lineup

I am on the record, multiple times, telling you all that you can judge books by their covers, at least when it comes to judging the appeal of a book. You can click here to see the many times I have written about covers and using them as a RA Tool.

My most read "covers" posts are here and here. That second one, refers to Lynne Hansen, the top Horror cover artists out there. After writing that post in 2020, I had the idea to do something more in depth about Horror cover artists. Flash forward 3 years to last week when my third (of four) columns for The Lineup this year posted and is all about Horror illustrators.

While my posts here on the blog about covers are geared toward library workers, this piece in The Lineup is written to readers directly.

Below is the intro and a link to the article. You can click through here or in the link after the intro to read the entire article for free.

Please note, while this is specifically about Horror (with perfect timing for your Halloween displays), you can still use it as a guide for any genre. Just physically telling readers that you judge books by their covers is a great conversation starter. It seems illicit and will break the ice as you drive to have conversations about what they want to read and why. Trust me, I do it all the time. It works. Asking a patron what their favorite book cover is, rather than favorite book, gets their attention immediately. It is unexpected and will signal that you actually want to talk about reading experiences.

And a "Judge a Book By It's Cover" display is an awesome idea, just make sure you are double checking that the books you choose for their good cover are also a great read for a wide audience. The whole, "judging a book by its cover" is not as much of a free for all as it sounds. It is a great entry point, but you still need to do the work and make sure the books should be on display for your patrons. \

Here is the article. I chose independent press titles because a lot of the major presses use in house designers. And true to the paragraph above this one, all of the books are a great read for a general audience. I trust the publishers and the content of these books to be added to your collections.

A Librarian Wants You to Judge These Horror Books by Their Covers

Psst…. I have a dark, dirty library secret for all of you. I think we have been doing this column long enough that I can trust you enough to share it with you. Here it is…

I judge books by their covers.

I will give you all a moment to recover from shock, but it is 100% true. And not only do I judge books by their covers, but I train library workers all over the world to do the very same thing.

Now I know all of you probably heard from a librarian or teacher at some point in your childhood, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and I am sure some of you have taken this as fact and carried it into your own adult reading life, even passing it on to new generations of readers. Well, I am here to tell you to forget it.


Well let’s start with this actual fact: Publishers want their books to have a cover that sells the book to its best reader. They need the cover to do the heavy lifting of attracting readers as they walk by...

But they also want them to be the right readers, ones who if they are attracted by the cover, stop and read the back and then decide to buy the book.

If publishers are putting that much effort, money, and thought into the covers of their books, why aren’t we using the covers to help readers find the best book for them as well? It actually seems irresponsible for me, someone whose job it is to match books with their best readers, to NOT consider the covers. A cover can never tell you exactly what will happen in the book, but those covers created by the very best artists can absolutely tell you quite a bit about the feel of the book to follow, setting the tone for the story that follows.

Which leads us all to this column. Today, I am going to present six of today’s best Horror book illustrators with two example books, titles that you can 100% judge by the superior art gracing their covers. I have spoken to numerous illustrators, authors, and publishers to make sure I have found artists who are both talented and trustworthy.

However, the one disappointment I have encountered throughout this process is the overwhelmingly white and male representation in today’s horror cover art world. In fact, those I spoke to know it is a problem and many have been seeking out more marginalized artists to highlight and support as well. 

Therefore, this article serves two purposes. One: to help you break the taboo and get out there to judge a book by its cover. It’s fun and slightly illicit, and since I have vetted the titles for you, I can promise you that the books will be worth your time. And two: to serve as a call to action for horror artists from marginalized perspectives to reach out, leave a comment, and let us know who you are so the community can help lift you up. Then, as people encounter this article, they can explore your art as well.

Click here to read the full column.

And click here to read all RA for All posts tagged "covers"

Friday, September 22, 2023

Use Book Discussion Resources for Any Reader

I love book discussions. I am very invested in helping library workers to do a better job both picking books and being more effective leaders. 

But something I have noticed is that library workers only use book discussion resources for book discussion activities. This realization has me shaking my fist at the sky because you all are missing out by not turning to the best books discussion resources all of the time.

Yes, all of the time. And for all readers.

Why? A few reasons.

  1. Trusted book discussion resources vet books before they include them. They pick titles that not only provide fruitful points of discussion, but also will appeal to a wide audience. I treat these resources as a "sure bets" list-- titles that I can turn to in a pinch that I am sure will be enjoyed by most people. To increase those odds, you can use the links within those resources to their most popular titles. It is suggestion and display gold. 
  2. Discussion resources provide so much extra information, both things your patrons may be interested in and information that may help you to hand sell the titles. From interviews with the authors to discussion question-- which often identify themes, subplots, and even appeal factors, such as the style of the book, you can learn a lot about who the best reader of these books, or the author in general, may be. 
  3. Most book discussion resources have excellent backlist access. They know that older titles are still excellent options. The celebrity ones might be picking new books right now, but their back list is also easily accessible. Any book that was deemed discussable in the last 5 years-- even if the book itself is older-- would be a great option to suggest to a reader right now.
  4. Speaking of celebrity lists, they can be an even better resource because those book clubs appeal directly to readers. They fill their sites with interviews-- in print and videos-- and tons of bonus info. While they often pick brand new books, the information doesn't disappear. You can use the celebrity endorsement itself as your conversation starter.
What I am trying to say here is, when you are looking for tested, sure bet suggestions and some help to booktalk said titles to your patrons, book discussion resources should be at the top of your list. AGAIN, use them as a resource without any intention for the person to be in a discussion group-- just as a good read.

Here are my favorite and most trusted book discussion resources:
  • Lit Lovers: my first stop for everything book discussion. They have fiction and nonfiction, pages on popular titles, and access by author or title. I regularly visit this site to find "under the radar" or "forgotten favorites" suggestions for some of my pickiest readers.
  • Reading Group Choices: They have featured books for Adult and YA titles, popular lists, and editor's choice titles. "Featured" books are never brand new. As a result, I find those titles to be great suggestions for those demanding readers looking for a good read that they wouldn't know about without your help.
  • Celebrity Books Clubs: The two I have had the most success with a general audience of library patrons and have a reliable and easy to use website are Reese's Book Club and Jenna's Book Club. However, any celebrity book club can work for the right reader. 

Check these resources out and remember to use Book Discussion Resources for any reader, not just when you need information for book clubs.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

New Learn With NoveList Class on Fighting Back Against Book Challenges and News About Robin and My Anti-Racist Program Options

Yesterday Robin and I finished our first year leading the Actively Anti-Racist Service to Readers class for Learn With NoveList. Click here for details on what that class offered. [And click here for the page with all of the ways you can hire Robin and I to train your staff or library system on this topic. ]

We have learned a lot over the last year working with those taking this course. In fact, we have learned so much that Robin, I, and NoveList's Yaika Sabat will be presenting "Anti-Racist Reader Services: Beyond the Basics" a PLA in April 2024. If you are coming to Columbus, we will see you there.

Also, if you are attending NELA in Springfield, MA this October, NoveList and LibraryReads are sponsoring Robin and I as we present our ActivelyAnti-Racist Service to Leisure Readers in 2 sessions (the first, a lecture, the second, all Q and A. PLus we each have a genre session). 

I will also be presenting a brand new keynote for ARRTCon in Naperville, IL on 11/30/23, with my appearance sponsored by LibraryReads focused on countering the most popular excuses Robin and I hear as to why people who claim they want to do the work to be actively anti-racist cannot actually do it. 

[Here is that 60 min keynote in 1 sentence... Stop with the excuses and do the work!]

Speaking of all of these sponsorships, Robin and I actively help you to secure funding to have us train you. We know this training is important, but we cannot offer it for free because we need to paid for our work. But I also wanted to note that we have kept our prices the same for 3 years; however, beginning with all parties who contact us 1/1/24 and after, prices will be going up. Again, go to our Anti-Racist training landing page for current pricing and program details.

Which brings us back to the Learn With NoveList class. It was the best and most cost effective way to have us offer our Actively Anti-Racist Service to Readers training in 2023. You got the full recorded training programs with exercises, padlets to work on issues together and share knowledge, AND 4 chances to meet with us live. Yes it is over, but I am happy to report that there will be a 2024 version. We have recorded he lessons. Stay-tuned for details.

In the meantime, Learn with NoveList has another class you can sign up for in the meantime, a while you wait for Robin and Becky 2024 option-- No More Neutral: How to Champion the Right to Read

Angela Hursh is offering the class and she wrote this blog post with more details. I would highly suggest you sign-up for this. And if you do, let them know that you also want to sign up for the 2024 Anti-Racist class with Robina and I and they will work out a deal for you. Contact me if you want me to help you start the conversation.

One thing we have all learned from the class Robin and I offered over the course of 2023, the live meeting option was a HUGE success. Learn With NoveList plans to offer live components to ALL of their classes going forward.  If you click through to the page for No More Neutral: How to Champion the Right to Read, you will see those dates listed, four sessions where you can meet with your fellow learners and ask questions.

I wish both topics were not so crucial to our day-o-day work, but they are. I am proud to be a part of possible solutions though.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Resource Alert: Audio In Depth via Library Journal


Since March 2022, Library Journal has committed to focusing on Audiobooks 4x a year. Those features are called "Audio In Depth" and appear in the March, June, September, and December issues. They have created a landing page where you can access not only the most up-to-date reviews sortable by what got stars and in which genres they are classified, but also, the backlist with ease. Literally on the bottom of the page.

It is suggestion gold... right there.. just waiting for you to discover it. Click here now.

Also, as far as I can tell, you can access this without logging in. 

Along with AudioFile Magazine, I would count Audio In Depth as my favorite collection Development and RA resources for audiobooks. Make sure you bookmark both. 

And remember, while these are great resources for audiobook readers specifically, there is a lot of information in those reviews that you can use to suggest the title, in any format, to a potential reader.

Don't let the format limit how you use the resource to help readers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Booklist's September 15th Issue is Spotlight on Romance


The current issue of Booklist contains a Spotlight on Romance. Click here to explore the issue's landing page and start up your digital access which is free with your library's subscription. 

A couple of key resources in this issue:

I also want to remind all of you that my colleague Robin Bradford published The Readers' Advisory Guide to Romance earlier this year and it is a MUST OWN resource for every library. It is in the same series as my Horror book.

Romance and Mystery are the top 2 circulating adult genres at most public libraries in America. Having the most up to date lists and recourses is imperative to doing our job every single day. 

This post is a great place to start helping romance reader right now. You can also use my list of my favorite free  genre resources which is directly available here and also at the bottom of my Ten Rules for Basic RA Service page. 

Click here to buy Robin's book

Monday, September 18, 2023

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: National Book Award Edition

This is part of my ongoing series on using Awards Lists as a RA tool. Click here for all posts in the series in reverse chronological order. Click here for the first post which outlines the details how to use awards lists as a RA tool.  

Last week the National Book Foundation released their long lists for the National Book Award. Along with my usual reminder to use these lists and their backlists especially to help patrons in a variety of ways, I want to point out the breadth of categories for this award.

Because it has categories in Fiction, Nonfiction, Translated Literature, Poetry, and Young People's literature, the National Book Award can help an extremely wide range of readers by default.

However, it is not just the range of categories, the nominees in these long lists are also among the most accesible of titles nominated for major awards. The fiction and nonfiction titles, as usual, are solid suggestions for a general audience, they are NOT overly literary or obtuse. And as usual the translated titles are excellent options, especially as interest in translated titles grow and our resources are not keeping up. 

From top to bottom, the books listed here should be owned by every public library and handed out frequently to general readers.

Backlist access of nominees and winners is very easily accessible and pleasant to browse, here as well. Of course, because of the breadth of titles always considered, this backlist access is extremely helpful for displays and suggestions all year long. Combine this with my "American Voices" idea from earlier this month as well.

Use the links above to explore the National Book Foundations' excellent web presence, but for a succinct report on the titles making the long list, click here for PW's coverage.

The National Book Foundation is announcing the 2022 National Book Award longlists this week. Five finalists in each of the five categories—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people's literature—will be named October 3. The winners will be announced during an awards ceremony on November 15.




  • How to Communicate by John Lee Clark (Norton)
  • The Diaspora Sonnets by Oliver de la Paz (Liveright)
  • Vexations by Annelyse Gelman (University of Chicago)
  • Promises of Gold by José Olivarez (Holt) 
  • from unincorporated territory [åmot] by Craig Santos Perez (Omnidawn)
  • West: A Translation by Paisley Rekdal (Copper Canyon)
  • Tripas by Brandon Som (Georgia Review)
  • Trace Evidence by Charif Shanahan (Tin House)
  • suddenly we by Evie Shockley (Wesleyan UP)
  • From From by Monica Youn (Graywolf)

Translated Literature

  • The Devil of the Provinces by Juan Cárdenas and translated from the Spanish by Lizzie Davis (Coffee House)
  • Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung and translated from the Korean by Anton Hur (Algonquin)
  • Beyond the Door of No Return by David Diop and translated from the French by Sam Taylor (FSG)
  • Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck and translated from the German by Michael Hofmann (New Directions)
  • The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel and translated from the Portuguese by Bruna Dantas Lobato (New Vessel)
  • No One Prayed Over Their Graves by Khaled Khalifa and translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (FSG)
  • This Is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor and translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (New Directions)
  • Abyss by Pilar Quintana and translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (World Editions)
  • On a Woman’s Madness by Astrid Roemer and tanslated from the Dutch by Lucy Scott (Two Lines) 
  • The Most Secret Memory of Men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr and translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud (Other Press)

Young People's Literature

A total of 496 books were submitted for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction. The judges are Steph Cha, Calvin Crosby, Silas House, Mat Johnson (chair), and Helena María Viramontes.

A total of 638 books were submitted for the 2023 National Book Award for Nonfiction. The judges are Hanif Abdurraqib, Ada Ferrer (chair), James Fugate, Sarah Schulman, and Sonia Shah.

A total of 295 books were submitted for the 2023 National Book Award for Poetry. The judges are Rick Barot, Heid E. Erdrich (chair), Jonathan Farmer, Raina J. León, and Solmaz Sharif.

A total of 154 books were submitted for the 2023 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The judges are Geoffrey Brock, Arthur Malcolm Dixon, Cristina Rodriguez, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, and Jeremy Tiang (chair).

A total of 348 books were submitted for the 2023 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. The judges are Claudette S. McLinn (chair), Sarah Park Dahlen, Kyle Lukoff, justin a. reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

Friday, September 15, 2023

LibraryReads: October 2023

  It's LibraryReads day and that means four 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 LibraryReads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips through this archive OR the sortable master list allowing you to mix and match however you want.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any LibraryReads 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 upcoming 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.
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.

Please remember to click here for everything you need to know about how to participate. Click here to see a database of eligible diverse titles sorted by month.

And finally, here is LibraryReads' extremely helpful Resources page.

New in February 2023-- a bonus pick with an annotation by a LibraryReads Board member. See this month's pick at the end of this post. It also appears on the PDF list for printing and displaying at your library.

Now let's get to the October 2023 list.... 

Wildfire: A Novel

Hannah Grace

Atria Books 

This fun summer camp sports romance is a perfect beach read. The characters are complex, and the men (other than the ‘bad guys’) are written to be very respectful of and thoughtful to the women in their lives, whether in friendship or romance. The book is also very sex-positive. Readers who missed the first book in this series won’t feel like they are missing anything, but will want to catch up!

—Jennifer Lizak, Chicago Public Library, IL
NoveList read-alike: Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky   

Let Him In
William Friend
(Poisoned Pen Press)

After the death of their mother, young twins Sylvie and Cassia find comfort in an imaginary friend, but their father begins to worry as things escalate. Grief and the paranormal are central to this book, and the story will leave readers questioning reality. This unsettling gothic read will keep readers turning the pages!

—Kristin Skinner, Flat River Community Library. MI
NoveList read-alike: We Hear Voices by Evie Green

The Hurricane Wars
Thea Guanzon
(Harper Voyager)

As enemies sworn to destroy one another, Alaric and Talasyn seem like unlikely allies, let alone candidates for a political marriage. This Asian-inspired fantasy series takes all the elements needed for a new world—alliances, royalty vs. rebels, magic powers, a fierce orphan with a secret destiny, and enemies-to-lover tension—then sets them in a world of horrific storms and a kingdom under siege.

—Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, TX
NoveList read-alike: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

The Leftover Woman: A Novel
Jean Kwok
(William Morrow)

A Chinese woman desperate to find with the daughter adopted without her consent makes a dangerous journey to the U.S. Her story intersects explosively with that of an editor eager to recover from a career-ending scandal. Kwok hooks readers with an emotionally gripping story of two mothers willing to risk everything to protect what they love, skillfully balancing perspectives to a riveting climax.

—Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign Public Library, IL
NoveList read-alike: Say Her Name by Dreda Say Mitchell

Better Hate Than Never
Chloe Liese

Neighbors Kate and Christopher grew up together and over the years, snarky comments and shenanigans ensue until Kate flees home. When she returns years later, the animosity between them hasn’t waned. With their families begging for peace, they determine they need to get along. Which they do...too well. Readers will find watching them fall in love to be nothing short of magical.

—Taylor Banze, St. Charles City-County Library, MO
NoveList read-alike: Kiss Me Catalina by Priscilla Oliveras

West Heart Kill
Dann McDorman

In this twist on the trope of a locked room mystery, a private eye is trapped in an exclusive hunting cabin in the Adirondacks during a major storm with three dead bodies, while finding he is as much a suspect as the rest of the elite set of guests. A great original debut!

— Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library. NJ
NoveList read-alike: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

A Holly Jolly Ever After: A Christmas Notch Novel
Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

When rule-follower Winnie decides to take part in a steamy Christmas movie, she doesn't have a clue how to perform racy scenes. She asks co-star Kallum, the former chubby goofball member of a boy band, for sexy practice sessions. As the two grow closer, can they get past their issues and have a real relationship?

—Jessica C Williams,Tiffin-Seneca Public Library, OH
NoveList read-alike: Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade

Let Us Descend: A Novel
Jesmyn Ward
On the long treacherous journey to the New Orleans slave markets, Annis turns inward, speaking to her lost mother and revisiting the stories of her African warrior grandmother. Ward’s fluid prose assists the reader to travel alongside Annis, flowing between hell on earth and the comfort of memory. For fans of She Would Be King by Wayetu Moore.

—KC Davis, LibraryReads Ambassador, CT
NoveList read-alike: Beloved by Toni Morrison

Midnight is the Darkest Hour
Ashley Winstead
(Sourcebooks Landmark)

In this small corner of Louisiana, religion runs deep. As a teenager, the reverend's daughter Ruth becomes summer friends with Everett,and begins seeing the truth through his eyes. Ruth chose to follow the word of the church and stay put while Everett seeks more. However, when a skull is found in the swamp, Ruth begins questioning everything she thought she knew.

—Andrea Galvin, Mt. Pulaski Public Library, IL
NoveList read-alike: The Toll by Cherie Priest

The Unmaking of June Farrow: A Novel
Adrienne Young
(Delacorte Press)

When her grandmother dies, June worries about falling prey to the family curse of hallucinations, which stole the sanity of her mother and grandmother. When a door opens leading to the past, June learns more about her family and discovers unexpected truths about herself—and her place in time.

—Nanette Donohue, Champaign Public Library, IL
NoveList read-alike: The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Board Bonus pick:

Straw Dogs of the Universe: A Novel
Ye Chun

Notable Nonfiction: 

The Comfort of Crows: A Backyard Year
Margaret Renkl
(Spiegel & Grau)

The LibraryReads Hall of Fame designation honors authors who have had multiple titles appear on the monthly LibraryReads list since 2013. When their third title places on the list via library staff votes, the author moves into the Hall of Fame. Click here to see the Hall of Fame authors organized in alpha order.

Wreck the Halls: A Novel
Tessa Bailey
NoveList read-alike: All I Want for Christmas by Maggie Knox

10 Things That Never Happened
Alexis Hall
(Sourcebooks Casablanca)
NoveList read-alike: Season of Love by Helena Greer

Starling House
Alix E. Harrow
(Tor Books)
NoveList read-alike: The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

Iris Kelly Doesn't Date
Ashley Herring Blake
NoveList read-alike: The Fiancée Farce by Alexandra Bellefleur

The Burnout: A Novel
Sophie Kinsella
(Dial Press)
NoveList read-alike: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

My Darling Girl
Jennifer McMahon
(Gallery/Scout Press)
NoveList read-alike: Mothered by Zoje Stage

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Authors Defending The Freedom To Read

My colleague Doug Murano, fellow HWA member, author, award winning anthologist and publisher, reached out to me the other day to let me know he was going to speak at his local school board meeting because they have an organized group of book banners.

Here is a link to his speech as recorded at the meeting via X, but since not everyone will be able to watch it, I asked him for his text as well. I have included that at the end of this post. 

But before I send you off to read his remarks, I want to make it clear that this took guts. To put himself on the line as an author, publisher, and local business owner, to out himself as an ally for the freedom to read in a room full of people there to ban books and limit freedom, in a state that grossly ignores is citizens' rights, that is brave. He risked a lot, but he did it because he knew it was the right thing to do. What he HAD to do. Doug is that kind of person.

However, here's the thing. A lot of you think you are that kind of person, but you are not going out to schools and libraries in your area and speaking out as book professionals. Why? I want you to think about that. You live in th town where you work at he public library, go speak at the school. Find a school or library in your region who needs support. 

Also, Tuesday, I had this post about my program for Sisters In Crime, about how authors can work in partnership with their libraries. Another way you can work with authors, it to get them to go speak out as well. They are extremely invested in the freedom to read. Get them to speak out as well. You can use Doug's remark's and his video as a guide.

Finally, I was to thank Doug for doing this and encourage you all to support his company. Order some books for your library or a t-shirt for yourself. Click here for the Bad Hand Books website.

Here, with Doug's permission, is the text of his remarks. 

My name is Doug Murano. I’m a Bram Stoker Award-winning editor and owner of Bad Hand Books, a publishing company I operate here in the Brookings area. Our unofficial tagline is: Books they want to ban from people they want to outlaw. So when I heard that some individuals were organizing to try to get books banned in my community, it got my attention.

I’m here to help Brookings set some expectations as this body reviews and develops the relevant policies. I come before you on behalf of my four children—Rocco, Eva, Luca and Franny, who attend school in this district.

The book I brought with me changed my life. Some of you will recognize the title: IT, by Stephen King. I read it during summer days when I was about the same age as Bill and the Losers Club when they built their dam in the Barrens and later confronted Pennywise.

Had the adults in my life understood the content inside, they wouldn’t have wanted me to read this book. IT features scenes that depict the following: child abuse, dismemberment, racially motivated hate speech, a carnivorous circus clown, graphic spousal abuse, and a pre-teen sewer orgy. This list is not all-inclusive.

None of that sticks with me as much as the lesson of the book’s prologue. And that’s why I brought it. You see, the monster featured in IT, Pennywise, sleeps for 27 years at a time—and wakes up to sow hate and fear once a generation. It eats hate and fear. In the novel’s prologue, the cycle begins when a young gay man, Adrian Mellon, becomes the victim of a hate crime at the hands of the people of Derry—and as a result, becomes the victim of Pennywise.

Why do I mention this? It’s because our Uncle Steve tried to tell us more than 30 years ago that the evil that slumbers in good, small communities—little towns with names like Derry, Maine or Brookings, South Dakota—wakes up at some point in each generation and the first sign of it is often violence and hatred toward our most vulnerable, marginalized neighbors. It’s a relevant lesson.

Despite what a number of those who are in attendance may insist, efforts to ban books don’t protect our kids. In fact, they’re aimed at pushing marginalized individuals further out. To erase their stories, de-legitimize their struggles, make them easy to dehumanize. Physical violence comes easier after that.

I’ll repeat: When segments of our communities are emboldened to silence or harm marginalized individuals, there’s often something much more sinister lurking underneath, trying to find the right time to wake up. We’re seeing it now. It animates much of one modern political movement—including efforts to ban books in our schools.

We can put a stop to it—and help keep it at bay in the future by letting our kids read freely NOW so they can learn important lessons like the one I’ve shared tonight.

So I’m here to say, as an honorary member of the Losers Club in the midst of a generational confrontation: Not on my watch. Not in my community. My children deserve better. Every single child deserves better.

I urge this body to reject calls to ban books.

Hi-yo, Silver.