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, November 30, 2023

Attack of the Best Lists 2023: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books and Insert Your Library Here

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Attack of the Best Lists 2023" coverage [and more backlist best of the year options] you can click here.

Library generated best lists are one of your best end of year tools, especially when you use the largest library near your physical location as a guide. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Library generated best lists reflect the opinions of actual staff and readers. What did staff most enjoy and what was popular? It is not just critical acclaim or sales data. Remember bestselling mainstays like Daniel Silva, Louise Penny, and Colson Whitehead were extremely popular in libraries well before they became household names. Library workers and patrons often know what is popular and good long before the rest of the world catches up.
  2. Library generated best lists take into consideration all ages of readers because they serve all ages of readers.
  3. Library generated best lists always have genre choices because library workers know patrons love genre-- especially Romance and Crime Fiction.
  4. Library generated best lists ALWAYS consider local or regional authors which is why I advocate for you to prioritize using the best list from the library in the largest city closest to you [in the same state if possible]. 
  5. Library generated best lists are not commercial in anyway. There are no publishers submitting books to their sites. No one is buying ads to be include. There are no links to encourage those using the list to buy the titles. 
  6. Library generated best lists know that the BACKLIST is not only important to provide access to but also, it is a tool in and of itself. We are all about "new to you" the reader. 
I think you get the point. So today, I have my nearest big city public library as an example, The Chicago Public Library with a branch 6 miles from my house. But you can use any big city or metro area library near you to help you have a regional interest best books option. Or go with the NYPL, from the largest city in our country. They have their lists in multiple languages and with graphics you can use to promote.

But back to Best of the Best from Chicago public library. I love this list even if it wasn't from the city closest from me. Explore with the link below or head to the CPL Best of the Best landing page:

Every year, Chicago Public Library staff work hard to evaluate the year’s new books, and today we are proud to present our latest annual recommendations for book lovers in Chicago and beyond. Happy reading!



For teens in high school.


Past Selections

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Real Bestseller List With Self Published Context

I read the Shelf Awareness daily newsletter for Bookseller and Librarians every single day. It is free and extremely useful. Every Tuesday at the end of the newsletter, they post the bestselling self-published books from the last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.

This list allows me-- and all of you who read the newsletter-- to see which self-published books are garnering the most sales. It is a great way to find up and coming voices to add to our collections, especially our ebook collections. At my library we have entire iPads of Kindle books, usually by genre, but also with just over all  bestsellers, that we circulate for people to read these books because some are e only.

But until this week, I never really thought about how the top self-published books stack up against the traditional titles. 

So yesterday, I did some digging. I matched the IndieReader list to last week's USA Today Bestsellers list because that USA Today list turned over today and the IndieReader numbers were from last week. I needed to compare apples to apples.

Before I reveal the list, I want to remind all of you that the USA Today Best-Selling Booklist is the only list out there that looks at every book and their raw sales numbers, anywhere and everywhere. They do not separate out fiction from nonfiction, youth from adult, paperback from hardcover, print from ebooks. So last week's top 5 were the two Rebecca Yarros books, then Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Mitch Album, and the Matthew Perry Memoir from 2022. Click here for the entire 11/22/23 list.

Okay, now that we have the context, here are the self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com w/ USA Today numbers from the 11/22 list. Source Shelf Awareness 11/28/23 (USA Today numbers added by me):
1. Twisted Love by Ana Huang 
    USA Today 352. Hunting Adeline by H.D. Carlton
    USA Today 513. Love Redesigned by Lauren Asher
    USA Today 524. King of Greed by Ana Huang
    USA Today 73
5. The Graham Effect by Elle Kennedy
    USA Today 1256. A Not So Meet Cute by Meghan Quinn
    USA Today 1267. King of Wrath by Ana Huang
    USA Today 136
8. Make-Believe Match by Melanie Harlow9. After the Storm by Laura Pavlov10. Good Elf Gone Wrong by Alina Jacobs

Let's think about this. Really think. The top 7 best selling self-published titles in America are all in the top 150 of ALL BOOKS sold last week.

Now I want you to be truly honest here. Ana Huang, you should know. That's no surprise. She is selling enough to make the NYT Paperback list. But do you even know about the other titles or authors. Probably not. But you need to know about them because they are the top selling books in the country.

Now I want to go into an ever deeper dive. Let's look more closely at Huang in particular who last week had the 35th, 73rd, and 136th bestselling books in the country. On last week's NYT trade paperback fiction list, she was 9 and 12. Okay, that's good right. Seems accurate,

But when we dig deeper we see larger issues that hinder our ability to understand how well the self-published books are actually doing. You see, 
number 1 on last week's NYT trade paperback list was Bookshops and Bonedust by Travis Baldree. Again, a book we all know right? But on the USA Today list where Twisted Love was 35, Baldree was 36! One spot below Huang, in real sales, but on the NYT list there are 8 places apart.

I could go on, but you get the point. We know from Colleen Hoover and Rebecca Yarros today, and E.L. James before them, that self-published authors can sell in numbers high enough to matter, but how often are we checking the self-published bestsellers again actual sales data. The numbers are surprising. 

And it matters because it is the devoted readers who are the ones pushing these books to the top of the sales charts. Those devoted readers should be our target audience. And yet, because they don't see the books they love and spend their money on in our collections, they don't think we get them, and they don't think of using us as their pipeline to the books they love. We are losing a large swath of our potential audience simply because we are not paying close enough attention.

Please subscribe to Shelf Awareness' Book Trade newsletter to stay up to date. It is free and you can use much of what they publish  to help you understand the place where book selling and libraries overlap. It will give you a general overview. The Self-Published Bestsellers List is but one specific example.

For those of you who want more than the top 10 self-published titles, there is also a free option from The Hot Sheet, which does a monthly Top 50 of Self-Published eBooks. But that may be a bit overwhelming for some of you who have no self-published titles. Start with the Top 10  each Tuesday from Shelf Awareness and add the newest titles to your collections each week. 

Also as you add more Self-Published bestsellers, market that you have them. Announce on social media, make displays on line and in the library. Promote it. I bet you will see new patrons coming in. And of course, a few months after you start doing this, go back and check the circulation stats on those titles. If they circulate well, which I know they will if you promote them as the best sellers that they are, even say, discover the next Colleen Hoover, in your marketing (or something like that), then you can justify adding more. This will lead you to using the Hot Sheet.

Make it a goal for 2024 to get more serious about adding self-published titles into your collections. They are too "best selling" to ignore.

Tomorrow, I am back with another super useful Attack of the Best Lists. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Deep Dive Into Romance via Public Books

I am working on a few bigger projects today, however, I did not forget about the blog. I have an essay I have been saving that looks at why Romance is thriving with data to back it up. 

We need to stay on top of the biggest trends all of the time, yes. But it also helps to give these trends context. The increased interest in Romance readership, especially titles not from the white, hetero, cis POV is undeniable. So take a few moments to look at Public Books' report, "Genre Juggernaut: Measuring "Romance"

This essay will help you understand where the current interest is coming from and how it has been sustained, as well as give you a sense of where it might be headed. 

The data here is fascinating and presented both in text and with visuals. It is also helpful to understand the emergence of Romantasy (Romance Fantasy) as its own category, and a term we see patrons using when they come in to ask for books.

Give the article a look and maybe use some of the things you learn to engage your Romance readers in conversation about what they are reading, what trends they are seeing, and why they want more of. Even if you are not a Romance reader yourself, this essay  will get you up to speed immediately on where the genre is at this moment.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Attack of the Best Lists 2023: Largehearted Boy's Essential and Interesting Best of 2023 Book Lists

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Attack of the Best Lists 2023" coverage [and more backlist best of the year options] you can click here.

I know we have had Best Lists appearing for about a month now, but it is the Monday after Thanksgiving and this is when the countdown to the end of the year starts to move fast and furious. As things heat up it is time to remind you about the index where you can find the list you need for the patron in front of you, with one click, for this year and many years in the past.

I am talking about Largehearted Boy's Best of 2023 Book Lists. For the past 15 years, David Gutowski has spent his end of each year trying to give you access to every single best books list in America. This year, for his 16th go-round, he has streamlined the process a bit. From this year's page:

For the past fifteen years, I have aggregated every online year-end book list I have discovered into one post.

This year, I will collect essential and interesting year-end book lists in this post and update it daily.

Please feel free to e-mail me with a magazine, newspaper, or other online list I have missed.

Retitled, "Essential and Interesting Best of 2023 Book Lists," Gutowski is no longer worried about getting you every single list, rather, he is shifting his focus slightly, but good news, the results are even more useful to you. With fewer options, but a consciously curated list of best lists, the Largehearted Boy list of lists is easier to browse and use.

For example: I have more easily found a few interesting lists such as:

I have a reader in mind for each list and they are people who will really appreciate the curated best options.

The Largehearted Boy annual list of best lists has always been my go-to resource for another important reason. Gutowski has always made the backlist access extremely easy, and thankfully, that has not changed one bit. At the end of the page he has a linked list of 15 years of his work. It is there for you to use immediately.

Remember, I would target the lists going back 5 years to find the most relevant best lists. So 2018 and forward. That is not to say the older lists aren't going to help you, but the 2018 and forward best books are probably still on your shelves.

I will still be posting important best lists here for you, but know that my go-to resource when helping readers find a great read or gift for the reader in their life, I go to Largehearted Boy first. Maybe you should too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Attack of the Best Lists 2023: NPR's Books We Love

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Attack of the Best Lists 2023" coverage [and more backlist best of the year options] you can click here.
Click here to enter the site

Yesterday the Book We Love for 2023 lunched. From their about page:

What is this thing?

Books We Love is NPR’s interactive reading guide. Mix and match tags such as Book Club Ideas, Biography & Memoir or Eye-Opening Reads to filter results and find the book that’s perfect for you or someone you love.

How are the books selected?

We reached out to our staffers and trusted critics and asked them to nominate their favorite books published in 2023. They responded with hundreds of titles. Then, the editors and producers at NPR Books sat down with a huge spreadsheet of responses; we resolved duplications, noted omissions, considered the overall mix and balance of books recommended and then made assignments. 

Why isn’t this just a list?

Back in 2013, the NPR Books staff was suffering from an acute case of list fatigue. So we teamed up with our friends at NPR News Apps and started to think about a site that would be more Venn diagram-y than list-y – a site that could help you seek out the best biographies that were also love stories, or the best mysteries that were also set in the past. We wholeheartedly believe that human beings are capable of absorbing new information in formats that are 1) not sequentially ordered and 2) wait … dammit! and 3) never mind. 

But no, really, I just want to see a list of books

We got you. To view these books as a list of titles rather than as an array of covers, you are welcome to select the “List” option in the upper right-hand corner of the site. 

So what’s the deal with these tags?

At NPR Books, we’re all about discovery: helping you find your next great read – the mystery you can’t put down, the memoir you recommend to all your friends. In 2013, we hashed out a basic taxonomy that was both functional (e.g., Biography & Memoir or Kids’ Books) and fun (e.g., It’s All Geek To Me and Let’s Talk About Sex). Over the years, we’ve refined our filters and added new tags, like The States We’re In and No Biz Like Show Biz.

The names are cute, but what do they mean?

The States We’re In is for stories of the American experience both true and fictional. It’s All Geek To Me is for deep dives on particular topics – trees, personality tests, tiny houses, you name it. In The Dark Side, you’ll find dystopias, serial killers, true crime and people behaving badly in general. Eye-Opening Reads will give you a new perspective on the topic at hand, whether it’s the state of philanthropy or a new pair of shoes. 

How do the books get tagged?

Our critics and staffers make suggestions, but to ensure we are applying tags consistently, the producers and editors at NPR Books consider and discuss every tag on every book. 

That must take a very long time


Can I look under the hood?

If you want to know more about how Books We Love was designed and coded, you can read about the process here. And if you’re curious to see the code and adapt it for your own project, you can check it out here.

Back to me, Becky, talking about this resource.

I love this list for a few reasons. The first is the tags discussed above. I love that they are natural language based. While there are recognizable categories such as "Biography & Memoir," "Mysteries & Thrillers," or "Young Adult," there are also more intuitive, reader focused categories like "Eye-Opening Reads," It's All Geek To Me," and "The Dark Side," and even choices based on length, this is an excellent portal to "best" books that allows any reader [or library worker] to created highly specific and expertly tailored suggestions. 

Second, it is fun to use. The mixing a matching potential is endless because of the breadth of choices. A lot of that breadth is because of the nature of how they add titles to the list. They ask all of their NPR Books contributors to suggest titles. As a result, a huge swath of reading interests are represented in the list. Their intentional inclusion of all voices, even those who only write a few reviews a year, makes this list one of the best. You can click on as many or as few of the tags as you want to create a general or highly specific list.

Third,  every former incarnation of this list is easily accessible with a single click from the top of this year's list meaning you have over 3,600 customizable suggestions for literally any reader, no matter how picky, at your fingertips. 

Fourth, Books We Love is a great go-to resource all year long because of the breadth and variety of titles included and the ease of backlist access. Users get to steer the ship to find their own suggestion amongst a universe of pre-approved titles. Then they can be as picky as they want, choosing their own filters to narrow it down. And since these lists are VERY broad in terms of the types of books that are included each year, the results are very useful. And they stand up over the test of time. 

And finally, this resource works very well as a conversation starter itself. You can use it in conjunction with my Conversation Starter to Display advice any time of year. Ask people for their favorite "Eye-Opening Reads." You can fill the display with the titles from Books We Love over the years to get things started and then ask staff and patrons to help give you more. Again, the details on how to use a conversation starter question to build a display are here. You can go back to Books We Love at anytime of year for display ideas. 

When you visit the NPR Book Books We Love portal now and have fun using it for yourself or your patrons, but don't forget about it all year long. It is a wonderful  resource and, after years in existence, the compound interest of titles makes it even more useful. 

And now if you will excuse me, I am going to do my annual exercise of using Books We Love to find myself a book to read over the holidays. 

Speaking of holidays, this is the last RA for All post of the week for the American Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be back Monday 11/27.