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

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Oscar Themed Reading Lists and Display Ideas But Make It Interactive

During this time every year, between the release of Oscar nominations and the awards ceremony, libraries often do movie to book themed displays, and while these are great and popular, they are also boring. We've been there and done that. Why not make our Oscar season displays better by thinking more broadly about what we display AND making it interactive?

First, I want to address all of your gut instincts here-- why are you giving me more work Becky? This is one of those things we know works and we can do in our sleep. 

Ahh, but that is exactly the problem. We can do it in our sleep and it shows.

I am not telling you to NOT make a book to movie display, I am asking you to expand the parameters of your Oscar season displays.

Yes you should start with books to movies. Use this year's titles right up front (list here). But also, consider any movie that was nominated this year, for any reason, that has even a small connection to a book. And then expand to past years. And expand again to any books into movies, not just ones that got nominated.

But wait, there is more, why not also add memoirs or biographies of movie stars to the display? Or even movie adjacent titles like this list of Barbie books.

But Becky, I can her some of you saying already, that is not an Oscar display. What you are proposing is too broad in scope.

Is it?

I would argue that being more broad with the whole idea of an "Oscar Season" display means you have way more titles to choose from and you will attract a wider swath of readers. Again, calling this display simply "Oscar Season Reads," means you can do anything movie adjacent. 

We worry too much about our very specific display or lists themes. Instead we need to always think more broadly in order to be more inclusive.

But even more important than widening our scope in order to attract more readers is actually including reader feedback and participation in our displays.

I have spent the last year perfecting my argument about making RA more interactive by including this very easy "Conversation Starter to Display" post with a handout.

Every single time you post a list online or make a display in the building you should include a way for people to answer a question related to said list or display. In the post I have a few ideas on how to "ask."

But what should your question be for this "Oscar Season Reads" display? The key is to think broadly about what your question will be in order to set the stage for the breadth of the display itself. So I would suggest the conversation starter question being along the lines of: What is your favorite MOVIE book? 

Yes keep it that vague so that your patrons can interpret it as they want.

This question will lead people to pick adaptations of books to movies, yes, but it will also speak to your novelization fans (especially those who read SFF), celebrity biography/memoir fans, film buffs, budding filmmakers, etc.... The choices are so vast. And in fact, they are more than you could ever think of yourself. And that's the point. You are serving your community, not yourself. We should be asking them; these are their books-- not yours. (Something we also often forget.)

The results, as you can probably tell, will be broad. I know this scares some of you, and is against your instincts to keep your themes tight and controlled, but it will appeal to way more readers. And most importantly, it will allow you to get feedback as to what titles are popular with your readers. We often use circulation statistics to see what is most "popular." But circulation stats do not give us any insight into whether or not the people who checked those items out enjoyed said items. 

On top of giving us real feedback, conversation starter questions also allow us to keep our displays up longer. We can ask this question throughout our online spaces, in the building, and on bookmarks inside our holds from now until Oscar Awards night. And then the Monday after the awards, we can change the title on the display to "Our Patrons Oscar Season Suggestions." 

[This is a side note, but related: too often we take down our displays too early. For example, Halloween. We put up Horror for all of October and then on November 1st, we take it all down. But here's the thing, many people start seriously thinking about reading a Horror book late in October and on Nov 1, many realize they never read one. Having the display up one more week would capture more readers. It would also make people happy to know you thought of them and their situation, rather than making them feel bad about not taking advantage when the "should" have. Obviously that is not what you are trying to say by taking the Horror display down on 11/1, but it is how it can feel. Library anxiety is real. When you take it down on 11/1, people feel like they can't ask for the books right away again for fear of upsetting us. By the way, this is real feedback from real library users. I am not making this up.]

I cannot stress enough how successful these patron informed displays are at libraries who have started doing them with my help. People come into the library to see books they suggested on display. They bring in their family and friends to see them. They tell others that the library "listened to them." 

You want to show them (not just tell them) that you are there to help them find their next good read, then ask them to make suggestions and then put those suggestions up on display. Want them to value your services, make it about conversations. Conversations require that you prove you are listening, and then respond. And the act of engaging in conversations leads to relationships. People will feel more attached to the library and their services. That attachment will lead to more support, more visits, and more checkouts. All of which makes for happy Administrators and Boards and of course, gives you more job security. 

Now back to the beginning of this post, when I noted that some of you were upset that I was asking you to do more work. Maybe at the front end, yes, Until you figure out your templates for the bookmarks to go into hold items, how to structure your social media posts to gather answers to your conversation starter questions, and how to solicit suggestions at an in-library display as it is up, this will all take a little more time.

But in the long run, it is way less work because you will reuse all of it to extend the life of all of your displays, gather better feedback on our collections which allow us to buy the books people want to read, and increase door counts as patrons are happier with our services and bring in others. See, less time spent promoting books and more satisfied patrons. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: National Book Critics Circle Finalists

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. 

The National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists were just announced here. Since 1974, the NBCC, made up of mostly literary critics, honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature. 

The finalists are in 8 categories:

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Biography 
  • Autobiography
  • Poetry
  • Criticism
  • John Leonard Prize-- Best First Books
  • Gregg Barrios Book in Translation
Of note, the John Leonard Prize is for any first book, not just fiction. I find that fascinating. I believe it is the only award that is given for simply a first book, full stop.

Also, the separation of nonfiction, biography, and autobiography not only allows for more nonfiction to be honored, but is acknowledges the big difference between biography and autobiography both the obvious distinction of how it is written and the fact that the appeal for readers is different as well.

I always like comparing the National Book Award finalists to the NBCC. They are fairly similar, but you can see distinctions, especially if you follow reviews as I do. The NBA is chosen by a group of mostly authors, while the NBCC is driven by the critics. You can especially see trends emerging over time if you look at both. Thankfully, both awards make the backlist easy to access. [There is a box on the top right gutter of the "Awards" page for the NBCC.]

Add in the Booker Prize and you get the big picture view of the best books published in English in any given year.

While "best" books aren't always the most popular with readers, they are the harbinger of larger movements. For example, as award finalists have gotten more diverse, the demand for more titles by marginalized voices has made it way into the conversation about all books.

Another change that began with literary fiction "best" books that I have been following for a few years and I will be noting in my upcoming presentation with NoveList is the increase in genre blending. Interestingly, it first started gaining traction and legitimacy in literary fiction. Think Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad. Genre blending used to be most excepted and popular if you added genre to literary fiction, but today we have popular titles that are blends of pure genres at the top of the best lists and bestseller lists-- like Weird Westerns and Romatasy. [Again, I will have a lot more on this if you come to the free webinar.]

So use this awards list as a resource as I note in the introduction to this post above, but also, think about grouping similar awards together, consider their backlists from the last 5 years, and see if you can notice a few trends or changes yourself. When we embrace trends and larger movements as they are developing, we show our patrons we understand them. Anticipating what they want is not that hard if you pay attention and it leads to more check outs.

All of our work with readers starts with resources, and awards lists are one of my favorite resources.

Monday, January 29, 2024

What I'm Reading: February 1, 2024 Issue of Booklist

The February 1, 2024 issue of Booklist went live a few days early and I have 2 reviews in that issue. Interesting, this also marks the last reviews of books I actually read in 2023. And, I already have 2 turned in and in process for 2024.

Both are excellent and will appeal to a wide audience. 

What Grows in the Dark

By Jaq Evans

Mar. 2024. 288p. MIRA, $18.99 (9780778369684); e-book (9780369748737)

First published February 1, 2024 (Booklist).

Brigit and Ian have leveraged Brigit’s childhood tragedy– her sister Emma’s disappearance and death in their small hometown in Virginia 16 years ago–  into a paranormal investigation online show. Brigit has been the star and Ian the cameraman, as they help people rid themselves of troublesome spirits in exchange for a few minutes of internet fame. However, when Emma’s ex-girlfriend calls Brigit back home after two more teens have disappeared into the woods, Brigit must finally confront the horrors of her past, the monster in the woods, and her part to play in its reign of terror. Opening with an unease that builds to outright disturbing, and featuring both strong LGBTQ representation and a compelling combination of lies, secrets, and twists, readers will be drawn in quickly, but it is Brigit and Ian and their alternating narrations that will keep readers turning the pages. A solid debut that will appeal to fans of small towns with monstrous secrets hiding in the woods like Jackal by Erin E. Adams and Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. 

Further Appeal: Brigit and Ian are flawed but because they each get a chance to share their flaws with the reader and their problems with each other-- this is where this story shines.

The interpersonal relationships, family secrets/trauma, and tension are great. This is a delayed coming-of-age story for both narrators. 

The monster itself was not as interesting to me, but at least in how I read it, the monster was not the main point of tension and trauma. 

Three Words That Describe This Book: disturbing, terrifying secrets, dual narration

Readalikes: Besides the two above, this book would appeal to fans of Simone St. James, All Hallows by Christopher Golden (which I gave a STAR), and Lisa Quigley’s The Forest.

[This one is not on Goodreads yet, see also the end of this post for a possible issue with the release of this title]

What Happened At Sunrise Garden

By Nate Southard

Apr. 2024. 102p. illus. Cemetery Dance, paper, $11  (9781587679445)

First published February 1, 2024 (Booklist).

Elizabeth is a teacher in the Central American jungle community of Sunrise Gardens. They have removed themselves from the outside world to live with true freedom. When the novel opens, Reverend Shaw, their leader, is gathering everyone to announce that a zombie apocalypse has begun and they have 1-hour to prepare to take their own lives by drinking poison. Told exclusively through Elizabeth’s eyes with a few flashbacks to how the alcoholic Lizzie, found the church that gave her hope for the future, this gripping tale unfolds quickly, and in real time, as readers watch Elizabeth struggle with whether or not the first thing she ever believed in was a lie. Tight writing and an immersive world make this an awesome reading experience, one that will leave readers unnerved long after turning the final page. Suggest to fans of Psychological Horror like Cabin at the End of the World by Tremblay, cult stories like The Children of Red Peak by DiLouie, or immersive and introspective novellas like Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones.

Further AppealThis book was almost a star. 98% of it was a star, including the ending – very Tremblay-esque, but the penultimate scene, bothered me. It was not as tight or as believable as the rest. I don't want to give it away, but this scene is key to connecting Lizzie, in the past and Elizabeth in the present, and I didn’t buy the connecting person’s reaction. And writing wise it was the least tight scene which I wouldn’t have even noticed if the rest of the book wasn’t so well done. This is a small complaint but it is why ti is 4.5 and not 5. 

As a reading experience, it was AWESOME. This books takes place over about 1 hour. Only Elizabeth's perspective. Very cool. Reads in about the same amount of time. There are also flashbacks to how Elizabeth got to Sunrise Gardens-- her personal story-- interspersed in a way that does not sacrifice the pacing or the tension.

The writing overall is exceptional tight. Southard has expert control of the narrative and the pacing. As you are reading, you are lost in the story, but when done, it is easy to reflect on how your enjoyment is because of his skill and be appreciative.

And the ending itself, the last scene, the last lines....it was chef's kiss perfection. It was perfectly unnerving.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Immersive, Cults, Unnerving

Readalikes: This book reminded me of how Tremblay writes in general and this story is clearly inspired by Cabin. I would also suggest this to fans of Adam Nevil and Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison.

One final note, this book was scheduled to come out by Cemetery Dance in April 2024. I turned in the review at the end of December. However, last week, there was news that Cemetery Dance cancelled a bunch of planned books. I have no idea if this is one of them. So apologies if you go to order this and you cannot. Maybe find another Southard backlist title to add instead. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: Alex Awards 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. 
One of my favorite awards is actually a list. It is the Alex Award:
The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002.

The award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust. Edwards pioneered young adult library services and worked for many years at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. Her work is described in her book Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts, and over the years she has served as an inspiration to many librarians who serve young adults. The Alex Awards are named after Edwards, who was called “Alex” by her friends.
On Monday, the list for 2024 came out. You can read it here or at the end of this post. But first a few comments about this year's list:
  • 2 of the BEST BOOKS I read this year (Chlorine and Whalefall) are on this list and for both of those books, I note that teens would love them in my reviews. 
  • Some of the overall bestselling books and top of the best lists titles are here (Fourth Wing, Chain-Gang All-Stars) and The Talk, a memoir, was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal
  • Take a look at the fiction titles below. All of them not only embrace genre, they are all genre first. And those genres are speculative in nature. 
  • I know first hand, from suggesting these books to readers, they are sure bets with adults and teens. Really anyone who considers themselves a "reader," these are titles that would work for them regardless of their general reading preferences. In fact, I consider the Alex Awards in general as one of my go-to sure bets lists, always.
As I hint to in that last bullet point, these observations not unique across the years. The Alex Award list often contains a few "Best of the Year" titles and is usually leans heavily on speculative titles. 

So, as good as the 2024 list is, you should 100% check past years' lists which are easily available at this link. This is a sure bet list for Adult and Teen readers, for any year. So make sure to consult the Alex Award list from the last 2-5 years frequently. When you are struggling for a book that is interesting, fun, and with wide appeal...this is the best place to start.

And come on, regular readers of this blog are probably not surprised that  I love this award precisely because it is a list, by definition. (Confused? See the series disclaimer at the top of the post, or the title of this post.)

I will be adding all of the 2024 titles to my Demystifying Genre program exactly for this reason. They are sure bets with a genre focus. 

And now, for those who did not click through yet, here are the 2024 Alex Award winners (with links to my reviews where applicable):

  • “Bad Cree,” by Jessica Johns (nehiyaw/Sucker Creek First Nation), published by Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House
  • “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, published by Pantheon Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • Chlorine,” by Jade Song, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • “Fourth Wing,” by Rebecca Yarros, published by Red Tower Books, an imprint of Entangled Publishing
  • “The Hard Parts: A Memoir of Courage and Triumph,” by Oksana Masters, published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • “I Will Greet the Sun Again,” by Khashayar J. Khabushani, published by Hogarth Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House
  • “Maame,” by Jessica George, published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group
  • “Starter Villain,” by John Scalzi, published by Tor Books, an imprint of Tor Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishing Group
  • “The Talk,” by Darrin Bell, published by Henry Holt & Co., a division of Macmillan Publishing Group
  • Whalefall,” by Daniel Kraus, published by MTV Books and Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Thursday, January 25, 2024

2023 Year in Checkouts in a Visual

As I have mentioned, I am working on my annual Year in Review webinar, this year teaming up with NoveList. (There is still time to sign up here.)

With a new partner, comes the use of new data sets. For example, I got access to behind the scenes data about what people are actually searching in NoveList. But the inclusion of more data, meant there is not time for some I have used before, due to time constraints, yes, but also, there is less of a need to duplicate results.

However, great news for all of you, I have this blog that you are reading right now, and I can offer bonus content from our cutting room floor. 

Case in point, the visualization you see above via data on library checkouts as compiled for all of 2023 by Syndetics Unbound. The visualization allows you to see the year that was fly by. You can watch books come and go and then come back in some cases, to the screen. And when you scroll below the graphic, you can see a list of the top 100 circulating titles in US public libraries over the calendar year of 2023. This data is drawn from he thousands of libraries that use Syndetics Unbound to enhance their library catalogs.

And of course, if I am going to point you to a resource here on RA for All, you know it will be one with an easy to access backlist. Syndetics Unbound gives you back list and more. 

Click here for their News tab which has easy to access links to a year end report for Genres (this is key to the webinar as well), as well as a month by month report on the top titles at public libraries (as you scroll down they are there in reverse chronological order). And if you keep scrolling you get to the 2022 version of the 2023 report above. And even, 2021's list (although just the report, no visualization back then).

It's great to look at the year in checkouts and see the titles all in a neat ordered list, but unless you look at past year's the data is just interesting. It becomes helpful to you as someone who servers readers, when you look at trends, see how titles and authors move up and down in popularity over time, and think about your own library in comparison. This will all be explained win more detail with tangible examples on February 13th (again, sign up is here)

Full disclosure here, Syndetics Unbound is a competitor to NoveList (who I am giving my talk for and with); however, we did look at their data while making our Keeping Up with Books: Year in Review 2023 webinar to make sure the other data sources we had were comparable. I am happy to report that they are. 

I also felt that it was imperative to share this resource because of the visualization provided. Having access to data in  a variety of formats is important. People take in information in different ways. I am always making my best effort to provide access to information in as many ways as I can and this is an excellent opportunity for that.

This visualization of all of 2023 in checkouts is also a great graphic to share with patrons. You can post on social media or your website or both. You don't even have to be a Syndetics Unbound customer. They make this free to any and all. And your checkout numbers are probably very similar. Either way, you are showing them the US landscape for many libraries. Your patrons will enjoy seeing some of the books they checked out here in the video, as well as find new titles to check out.

Sounds like a win-win opportunity to look good and connect readers with books. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

PLA 2024 Schedule Featuring Me and Robin

Now that LibLearnX is in the rearview, let's talk about the Public Library Association Conference coming April 3-5. 

I am always excited to attend this conference and apparently so are a lot of people because I keep finding out that so many of you are going. I think the location, Columbus, helps. It is driving distance for a lot of people, and an easy and affordable flight for anyone with Southwest at their airport.

I am also excited to be presenting. After doing this preconference at the last PLA in Portland, Robin and I are back, this time with Yaika Sabat from NoveList, to present the following program:

Anti-racist Reader Services: Beyond the Basics

April 3rd
10:15 AM-11:15 AMET

Panel Presentation
You're committed to providing anti-racist service to your community, and you've learned basics, like where to find diverse titles and how to audit your collection. So, what's next? This session will discuss deeper concerns and questions about actively anti-racist reader services, like how to deal with racist comments from patrons, whether every viewpoint deserves a spot on the shelves, and how to create your vision of anti-racist collections and services.

Yaika Sabat
Manager of Reader Services 

Robin Bradford
Collection Development Librarian 
Pierce County Library 

Becky Spratford
Readers' Advisory Specialist 
RA for All 

We are in the first programming slot for the entire conference, which is exciting for a variety of reasons. First, we can help you set the tone of your entire conference experience. We are mindful of our slot and want to give you tangible things you can not only bring back to your library, but also, use to frame your entire conference experience.

Second, it gives us time to enjoy the conference and enhance our own learning.

And third, and this is something I felt very strongly about, it gives us time throughout the rest of the conference to set up some times to meet with people one on one to discuss your specific issues at your libraries.

One thing Robin and I have learned in providing these training sessions over the last 3 years is that we need to give people an option to talk to us privately. Even in the safe spaces we work hard to create, there are things that people do not feel comfortable sharing with others. We know it is awful out there. Trust me, we do. But we are steadfast in not giving in and fighting on.

To this end, we are working to have "office hours" somewhere. Hopefully the NoveList/EBSCO booth, but we will let you know during our session, on social media, and here on the blog. But having the session at the start of the conference means there is more time for us to meet with you throughout the full 3 days. And, I am there until the closing session. 

If you are on the fence about going, maybe this post today will help you decide to join us. And look, I know it is expensive. Very expensive. I know because I pay for myself. But, for me at least, this is the only national conference I am attending this year. I cannot make StokerCon or ALA Annual due to family stuff. (All good things, but things that don't allow me to travel.) For me, PLA is always a good investment because it is only public library workers. 

And, if you are signed up already and want to let me know contact me. I'd love to meet as many of you as possible. Plus I will have pens and stickers in abundance.

Finally, for those who cannot join us, consider signing up for the class Robin and I do for Learn With Novelist. You still have time to complete the class and meet with us 3x in a live Q & A Session. We create a cohort, team learning atmosphere that lasts all of 2024, and it is less than 1/2 the cost of attending PLA.

Important note to those of you who have rules against anti-racist or DEI training-- this program allows you simply to sign up and pay for "Learn with NoveList." Full stop. No details on which class. They offer a bunch. We have found that library workers in this situation have had no problem getting this class funded, especially if they already subscribe to NoveList. 

And you can always reach out to me with your difficult questions. I will share with Robin. We are willing to help.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Free, 3 Part, RA Training From Booklist featuring Me and Others on March 14th

Click on the image to register

As I mentioned here, I am doing a FREE training with NoveList that focuses on the 2023 Year in Review. But only 1 month, and 1 day later I am also a part of a 3 hour (also FREE) RA training event via Booklist.

This one features many RA experts talking about a variety of topics and again, it is FREE.

Mastering the art of readers’ advisory involves ongoing study, both of major concepts that form the backbone of a good RA practice, and of the skills that make your RA practice effective in the day-to-day. This series of workshops, presented by Booklist, is designed to keep you up to speed on both the ideas and practice that will enhance your RA game. Learn from experts in the field about how genres relate to each other, how to talk to patrons about their leisure reading, and how to write an effective book annotation. Participants should have an understanding of the basic readers’ advisory concepts of appeal elements (character, pace, storyline, tone, and writing style).

In “Swoons and Screams,” librarians Robin Bradford, Alex Brown, and Becky Spratford will dive deep into the appeal of horror and romance for teens and adults, and explore how they are both genres of intense feeling, how they intersect and diverge, and what makes each genre so appealing to readers. Total session time: 55 minutes.

In “The Readers’ Advisory Conversation,” librarians Michelle Morris and Sheila Michaels will present a workshop on the RA conversation, offering practical tips and instructions on how to get the most out of your interactions with patrons. Total session time: 50 minutes.

In “Crafty & Concise Book Blurbs,” librarians and Booklist editors Heather Booth and Susan Maguire will present a workshop on writing annotations, focusing on how to hone in on a book’s appeal and present a concise description of a book that will entice patrons to read. Total session time: 50 minutes.

Register now for these free events on Thursday, March 14th beginning at 11 a.m. PST/ 1 p.m. CT / 2 p.m. ET to enhance your Readers’ Advisory practice! Sponsored by Penguin Random House Library Marketing and Sourcebooks. 

One registration form required for all three sessions. Each session will conclude with a Q&A. All sessions will be recorded and distributed to registrants after the live event. Booklist expects all participants to maintain an atmosphere of respect and fairness. Anyone who violates this standard of behavior, including engaging in any form of harassment, may, at the discretion of the organizers, be immediately removed.

I am super excited to both present and attend this event. First, Robin and I have been wanting to do a Swoon and Screams panel for years. In fact, it was on the schedule for ALA Annual in 2020 before the in person event was cancelled. And I have worked with Alex before. They are brilliant and an expert at serving teens. I am excited to work with them again.

Second, as much fun as Robin, Alex, and I will have, I cannot stress enough how useful the second two parts will be in your day-to-day work. Let me talk about the last one first. I have seen Susan and Heather's presentation before, and even as a seasoned vet of blurb writing, I learn something new from them every time. And, Michelle and Sheila are experts at helping readers in the library. You will learn practical tips that you can use immediately with readers. 

This event is 3 hours long, but it is FREE and they will email you recordings of each session after the event, if you register. So if you can only make one (or none) you can still learn. Most will not be able to spend all day, but Booklist knows this and is making it as easy as possible for you to get the training in a variety of ways. 

I really hope to see you there.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Using Awards Lists As a RA Tool: RUSA Books and Media 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.

Saturday morning the top awards for Adult Books and Media were awarded at LibLearnX in Baltimore, including the most prestigious prize The Andrew Carnegie  Medal for Excellence in Fiction and  NonfictionBelow are the individual links for the lists a winners with the ACM titles singled out. For each award I will also explain what it is for, but note, these are all the best and most readable titles for a general adult audience. 

Please go to the excellent RUSA Book and Media website which has a link for each award with the current winners displayed and very easy backlist access. That backlist access is here, but please note, you need to use the links below for Saturday's winners until they update the main page.

The Andrew Carnegie  Medal for Excellence in Fiction and  NonfictionThe Carnegie Awards, established in 2012, serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by ALA and reflect the expert judgment and insight of library professionals and booksellers who work closely with adult readers.

Please go to the website for the finalists, long list, and backlist, but the 2024 winners were: 

Fiction: The Berry Pickers by Amanda Perry and Nonfiction:
We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America World by Roxanna Asgarian

The other awards are for multiple titles.

  • 2024 Notable BooksAn annual best-of list composed of  titles written for adult readers and published in the US including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (Includes both ACM winners) 
  • 2024 Sophie Brody Medal Winner and Honor Books: Given to encourage, recognize and commend outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Works for adults published in the United States in the preceding year are eligible for the award.
  • 2024 Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration. This year’s committee evaluated 293 titles with a total listening time of more than 2,838 hours.  The final deliberation produced a list of 13 winners. 
  • The 2024 Reading List: An annual best-of list comprised of eight different fiction genres for adult readers. A shortlist of honor titles, up to 4 per genre was also announced. The genres are: Adrenaline, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Relationship Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction

Again, please peruse all of the winners from last night here. And explore the rich and easily searchable backlist of titles here. That excellent and easily searchable database of current and past winners will be updated later this week. It is a site you should have bookmarked at all times because there are many choices for a broad adult audience.

Now get out there and suggest some great reads to start your week.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Using Award Lists As a RA Tool: Edgar Awards 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.

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees of the 2024 Edgar Awards here. These are awards for Mystery and Crime, Fiction and Nonfiction, as well as television, all produced in 2023.

The Edgar awards are an EXCELLENT resource, for all of the reasons I normally discuss [see link in the intro], but also because 3 of their awards are straight up readalike awards-- The Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Lillian Jackson Braun Award, and the Sue Grafton Memorial Award. I rely on these awards to help fans of these authors find new titles and authors.

The Edgar Awards also have a WONDERFUL database of past winners and nominees. You can easily search back 78 years [!] and because mysteries are so popular in our libraries, there are endless display and suggestion possibilities held in that database. You can search by category, author, year, basically anyway you might want to look for titles, they have you covered.

Explore the database for yourself.

The range of titles as usual is large and the options are all great suggestions for a wide range of readers. Take just the "Best Novel" category as our example:


  • Flags on the Bayou by James Lee Burke (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
  • All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron Books)
  • The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein (Penguin Random House – Ballantine Books)
  • Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster – Simon Element – Marysue Rucci Books)
  • An Honest Man by Michael Koryta (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company – Mulholland Books)
  • The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)
  • Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead (Penguin Random House – Doubleday)

We have well known crime fiction names, the biggest new star in the genre,SA Cosby, 2 newer female voices to this category, and one of America's most beloved literary fiction authors, Colson Whitehead, all on this one list.

You want a snapshot of the "mystery" landscape, one of our most popular areas for library checkouts, look no further than the Edgar Awards nominees this year, well any year really, and especially over the last 5 years. You can track trends, rising star authors, and key reedlike titles with just a click or two. 

Click here or on the image below to access the full color, PDF press release for this year's nominees.

Explore all nominees in a PDF