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.

Monday, December 5, 2022

#LibFaves22 Begins Today and Goes for the Next 10 Days

Today, #LibFaves2022 begins, the annual, 10 day, library worker Twitter countdown of the best books published in calendar year 2022 and every single one of you can join in.

You do not have to rank the titles in order as all titles mentioned are compiled and ranked by number of times mentioned. All you need to do is Tweet 1 title a day for 10 days. So yes, I am not giving you much warning to prep, but technically you just need one title right this minute. I know you have a definite top title in mind right now to get started today. 

We need to all work together to create this massive, library worker generated best list. It is a tool for book discovery for our patrons, it is a way for us to find out about tiles we may have missed that our colleagues have enjoyed. 

In fact, that is why I participate and only do my top 10 #HorrorForLibraries titles because often those books would not garner a mention if I didn't get them entered into the mix. I take it upon my self as the library world's horror expert to make sure that these titles make a larger library worker favorites list.

After the ten days are over, I will do a more comprehensive post on the horror blog about my favorite Horror reads, and I will also do my annual best books I read in 2022 list at the end of December as well, but for #LibFaves22, I will represent for Horror so that when the final list of titles is compiled, it will be represented a least a little.

If you do not have Twitter, you can still lurk and use the recs to help patrons by just clicking on #LibFaves2022 here. Or wait for the compilation when it goes live on EarlyWord in a few weeks.

I really hope you consider joining us. It's one Tweet a day, and together, we can help so many readers. The more of us that participate, the more wide ranging the list is.

Last year, I invited one of the #LibFaves captains, Nanette Donohue, the Collections and Technical Services manager at the Champaign (IL) Public Library, to give you all a little background and invite you to join. So if you aren't excited to participate from my pep talk, here is Nanette from last year's post, officially inviting you to join [but with updated dates an links for this year]:

With plenty of year-end book lists coming out, it’s fun for librarians to join in on the fun, after all, library workers KNOW books! The only difference is that instead of polling and voting for the best of the best (which is what LibraryReads does too), each library worker shares their own top 10 books. These are the books we loved and can’t wait to recommend! 

This Twitter book-extravaganza first started in 2011 under the hashtag #libfavs2011. It was started by two #ewgc galley chatters*, Robin Beerbower from Salem, OR Library and Stephanie Chase from Multnomah County [OR] Library. The most popular book that library workers shared in 2011 was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

The list has grown through the years. In 2012, 689 books were mentioned, 399 of those were unique titles. By 2020, there were 1327 books mentioned, 631 of those were unique titles. That is a lot of books to discover!


A lot of library workers who want to join frequently ask, “Do we only share books that were published in the current year?” The answer is yes, because the goal is to highlight and promote discovery of new and fantastic books that librarians read for the year that the list comes out.

To participate on Twitter, library workers will mention one title per day for ten consecutive days from Dec. 5th to Dec. 14th and tag their tweets with #libfaves2022. Titles must be in CAPS (for easy readability on the part of the monitor). Volunteers will monitor the titles up until 9 P.M. Pacific Time on Dec. 14th. The list of all the books will be shared soon after.  

#Libfaves2022 is open to any and all library workers, so it might be helpful if participants indicate that they are library workers in their Twitter profile for the duration of the event to ensure their vote is counted. 


It is also preferred that books shared during this period be adult fiction or nonfiction, but library workers read and love everything, so as long as it was published in 2022, share any book you want.


*#ewgc is a monthly Twitter chat headed by Nora Rawlinson, founder of Earlyword.com where library workers talk about forthcoming books that they are excited about. For more information, check out the schedule on the website.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Attack of the Best Lists 2022: Best Covers and The Millions' A Year in Reading

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Best Books 2022" series [and more backlist best options] you can use the best lists tag

Two of my favorite, non traditional, best lists were just released and BOTH are favorites because they take the idea of what is "best" and look at it differently. And let me tell you, when we talk about the most useful resources for readers this time of year, those that attack the "best" idea from a different angle are the "best" resources for you to use to delight and surprise your patrons.

The first is the annual round up of Book Riot writers' favorite book covers of 2022. This list includes my personal favorite, Vagina Obscura by Rachel E Gross which I gave a star review in Booklist to here.

Now many of you may be confused, asking, Becky, how the heck can a cover help me match books with readers. Well, they can, and this is a topic I have written about many times. You can see all of the times I have written about using covers as a RA tool with my "covers" tag, here, but if you want the summary post, click here.

In general, covers make for a great conversation starter. You can not only use the book and its cover as a prop to talk about what the publisher wants you to know about the book based on the images, but you can also use the blurbs, appeal language, all of the words they also include on the cover and the inside cover flap to book talk a title. 

And, when you use the books on the "best" covers list, they have already been declared "best," by someone for some reason. Your readers don't care what that reason is, they just want to know someone thinks this book is worth their time. It helps them to narrow down the vast universe of books into a smaller list, one they can manageably peruse. And remember, some people are more visual learners, so this consideration of the cover will greatly appeal to them. 

Next up, the 18th installment of The Year in Reading from The Millions. I love the Year in Reading and I wrote about why at length last year. You can click here (or see below) for my reasons which include how to use it to help readers. But first, visit the landing page for this year's series. The editor makes some general comments about the process and trends that will emerge across the essays as they are introduced. And like every year, the landing page ends with easy access to every previous installment.

Here is the post from last year, however, please note, I changed the links to go to 2022.


Best Books 2021: A Year in Reading 2021 via The Millions

One of my favorite end of the year, "best" events is The Millions' annual essays on "A Year in Reading."

They ask a diverse list of writers, most of them "up and coming" or a little under the general radar to write an essay for which the only requirement is that it is on the topic of their personal year in reading. The result is an enjoyable series of essays that are united by theme but vary in style and content.

The archive of every essay from throughout the years is accessible on the current year's page [scroll down].

These "A Year in Reading" pieces are fun to read. Any reader will enjoy perusing these essays because they are all personal accounts of what reading meant to the author in the year that just passed. Yes there are lists of books, but it is through the author's exploration of why they chose these titles, what they meant to that person, and just in general, what reading meant to them in their life over the past year that these essays viscerally communicate the power of reading. And reading about others being positively effected by the act of reading is a joy for all readers to read. [So many "reads" in that sentence.]

However, besides the personal joy you will get from reading this, there are also tangible RA and Collection Development elements to these essays.

First, there is the training you get on appeal, and why different readers like different books. One of the hardest things to get practice on in our field, is hearing readers talk about what they like to read and why. We need to gather voices from across all experiences in order to have more examples of why people like the books they like. The more examples we have experience with, the more easily we can help readers as they approach us with their inquiries. It also allows us to think more broadly about readalikes, which is one of the drums I beat frequently. This archive is a treasure trove of dozens of readers sharing their feelings on appeal.

Second, and most obvious, the lists of books that come out of the series. These are not all books that came out in 2021. These are simply the books other authors read in 2021. You will expose yourself to many titles you either haven't heard of or haven't thought about in a while, through these essays. You can even turn the entire series itself into a display using the books. "A Year in Reading" can be your title. Make a quick note about the source of the display topic and then fill it with all of the books. Use past year's titles if you run out. It will be inclusive, diverse, and whole collection by default. And, make it interactive by asking patrons to add their "Year in Reading" titles. How can they add? Up to you. If it is an online display [pic on Instagram or a Facebook discussion, eg] they can use the comments. If it is an in library display, they can use a post-it to add a title to the display or a board, or put a slip into a box. Whatever you do to make it interactive, you can then use the additional titles to extend the display and make it more local.

And third, the authors that are chosen to participate themselves are a great resource. As I mentioned above, The Millions tends to ask a diverse group of up and coming authors from across the entire landscape of writing today. Use this series to discover new authors, both to add to your collections and to suggest to patrons.

Remember to think outside of the "best" box if you want your patrons to really notice and understand how you help them to discover books they would never find on their own. Yes, we need to have the more traditional "best books" displays up, but make room for some less traditional displays that not only capture those "end of the year" feels, but also, allow them to participate in a more meaningful way.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Middle Grade Fiction [Especially Horror] for All (with a giveaway)

Longtime readers of this blog know that I am a huge proponent of Middle Grade Fiction. As I posted in my 2020 Resolutions (before Covid) and then returned to in September of 2020:

As I said in my review of the latest Jason Reynolds book, I think every adult should read that book, but also, more middle grade in general. Not only are the books excellent, this is what today's children are reading and it will shape them and our future. You want to understand the future, you want to fix the dumpster fire of a world we are living in? The best place to start is with the youth of today. I always try to have a resolution that revolves around reading in an area that I think needs more attention and that I am also less well versed in, so this fits the bill. I no longer have young children and I need to stay connected to this age group. This resolution will help me achieve that overall goal.

And actually, this commitment to reading Middle Grade as an adult reader, and suggesting it to adults in general, goes back to this post in 2018 where I wrote

I especially think middle grade works better than YA for more adult readers because they don’t judge it as much. By this I mean, with some adult who are new to reading YA, all they do is complain how it isn’t as "complex” or isn’t as “well written,” as adult titles [both comments are useless and wrong as criticism]. They spend too much time trying to feel superior to the book in front of them. But, with middle grade, the adult reader already knows that the book HAS to be written at a different level than adult and is more willing to let the story unfold on its own merits. They expect it to be “easier.” They spend no time judging and all of their time experiencing the book, and almost always, they are honestly surprised by how deep, moving, and intricate these books are.

I have found that adult readers are often surprised by how much middle grade has to offer to them as a reader. This is why it makes such a great suggestion. You are helping them to find a book they would never consider on their own. And when they love it, you get the credit. If they don’t like it, they blame it on the book being for kids. You are off the hook. This is a no lose proposition people.

By making it an official resolution in 2020, I made a commitment to integrating MG fiction into my regular reading life. I started thinking about it in 2018, but made it a habit in 2020, and I am happy to report that this is one resolution I have stuck to every year since.

In fact, this year I doubled down on Middle Grade Horror in particular as I was a major advocate for and am currently the jury chair of the inaugural awarding of a Bram Stoker for Superior Achievement in Middle Grade Horror. We will be giving out the first haunted house statue for this age group in June of 2023. Currently our jury is hard at work making our final recommendations for the preliminary ballot. 

My work with Summer Scares has allowed me the space to explore the last 10 years of MG Horror offerings, and even with my background in both Horror and a rewed interest in MG fiction, I was surprised by the depth and skill on display in MG Horror. And because I have a front row seat to the 2022 offerings, I can tell you that they are all awesome. It ia going to be hard to only send 10 recommendations on to the Stoker Chairs.

I have a giveaway of one of those titles on the Horror blog today. Click here to get the details and rules on how to enter the #HorrorForLibraries ongoing giveaway, which this week features a copy of The Clackity by Lora Senf.

But here on the general blog I wanted to remind everyone that Middle Grade Horror in particular makes for an excellent suggestion to all ages of readers, any time of year. Some of it is NOT that much less scary than adult horror; in fact, in many ways I find it more unsettling because much of it is so tied to the large issues of growing up and anxiety about who these kids want to be. There are monsters, but the existential terrors are intense.

Getting a MG Fiction display up for adults in general is a great idea. Again, a link to the post in 2018 when I wrote about doing this anytime of year. But when you do it, make sure you have titles from all genres of MG fiction and make an effort to only include books from the last 2-5 years so that you can show the adult readers how sophisticated and enjoyable a MG read can be. Focusing on today's MG and not the MG of their youth, will be eye opening to many readers. You can use this link to see my posts about MG fiction, with resources and links to reviews of the books I have read. 

Specifically for MG Horror, NoveList has beefed up all of their Middle Grade Horror offerings on their site and our Summer Scares programming guides from the last few years not only have 3 chosen MG titles per year, but 4 readalikes for each. That is a great FREE place to start exploring MG Horror.

I also want to promote Spooky Middle Grade as another great free resource. This a collection of Middle Grade Horror authors who will provide free virtual panels, resources, and programs for your library. I have heard from multiple school libraries who have used Spooky Middle Grade to set up authors visits and all of theme loved it.

This time of year things can get hectic. People are in a rush, the library is even more short staffed than normal, and many readers are looking for a good read that they can escape into for a few hours. Set them up with some excellent MG choices in the adult section. Remind them with your displays and lists that the entire library is there to help every patron at all times. Give them permission to think about MG by putting it in their section of the library. Just make sure to sprinkle in some horror while you are at it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Discussion of Using Themes to Help Readers

What happens in a book does not matter as much as how the story is told. People don't read for what happens as much as they read for how the story makes them feel. As I like to put it (and how you can see in my Greatest Hits archive), why someone likes the book, not what happens is what we need to focus on as we match books with readers.

But hand in hand with appeal we now also have themes. While appeal describes the feel of a book and is specific to that book, themes are common story elements that pop up in many books and can be applied across genres. Or, to simplify it-- “appeal” is why you like the book you are holding, while “theme,” is about the things in that book that enhance the reading experience and make you want to seek them out in other books.

NoveList has done a great job of fleshing out this idea and developing themes--  story elements that can be applied to books across genres. An example of a theme would be "times slip" or "vengeance is mine" or "fake relationship" or "dark academia."

If you have a NoveList subscription, you can go to the "Browse By" drop down menu at the top of every page and choose "Themes" to learn more and see them applied to titles.

Themes can be a huge appeal factor for many readers, it can be the things they care about more than anything. For example, if someone loves "dark academia" stories, they might not care if the book is character centered or plot centered, methodical or fast paced. For this reader, the "dark academia" theme is what they want, at all costs. 

Also, because they can cross genres easily, it helps us to have a resource that allows us to help readers navigate all of fiction, not just the genres and authors they already know about. I had a reader like this. She loved stories with a "Tudor" frame. She craved them so much she read fiction, nonfiction, all ages levels, any genre that was set in that time period,including speculative fiction and graphic novel formats. For her theme was the top consideration. 

But NoveList is not the only place where themes are discussed; it is just the easiest to search in one centralized location. 

Here is another example. Book Riot recently had this post entitled, "9 Classic Types of Sci-fi Plots." I cross referenced this with the themes list for SF on NoveList [you need a subscription to see it] and there is a lot in common here. This Book Riot list is an excellent starter pack not only to understand common themes in SF but also to see how you can use them in tour RA interactions-- both to make matches and have deeper conversations about why the reader in front of you enjoys a specific type of book.

Yes, this article is organized and presented within the frame of only one genre, but reading this list will allow you to think about the applications to other books as well. Understanding why these plot types are common and the different ways they are applied, begins to ope up your mind to using this knowledge across the entire book landscape.

Check out the SF article here. But there is also one for Horror, Crime Fiction, Mystery. And for Romance, you can use the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books Bookbinder to search by dozens of themes.

What I am trying to show you with this post is that appeal is great; it is our old standby, solid and true. We can quickly get to the heart of why someone likes a specific book and even what kind of book they want to read next by focusing our conversations on the feel of that book through discussing it's storyline, tone, pacing, characters, frame, language, etc... But we can also make connections across books when we add in a consideration of theme as well. This takes a little more time and practice, though.

Take some time to peruse the resources I have mentioned in the post. Orient yourself with the concept of themes. Then actively apply what you have learned to your RA conversations. Start with a trusted patron. Be totally open and honest. Say that you are trying to incorporate "themes" into your tool box of resources you use to help readers. Engage that patron in the conversation and see what you learn.

I think you will find that by considering and discussing theme you will enrich the experience for both you and the reader you are helping.

And if you learn something from this experience that you want to share with all of my readers, contact me so we an talk about a guest post. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

How Fiction Helps Us Cope With the Real World via Self

When I teach Readers' Advisory in general and genres that appeal directly to the emotions, specifically [Horror, Romance, Gentle Reads, and Relationship Fiction], I spend a great deal of time talking about how important reading fiction is to us as humans.

Reading stories of fictional worlds, allows us a safe way to escape our day to day existence while also exploring new places, people, and situations. And because of the public libraries and the work we do to help match readers with the right book for them at that moment in their lives, it is an affordable way to escape.

Matching books with readers based on the feel of the book, not the plot, is at its essence what RA is. It is different from "bibliotherapy" however. We, as public library workers, are not trained to provide actual psychological help to our readers, many of who we barely know. But, we can help them find the right book, author, or even genre, to explore as a way to help themselves in the way they need at that moment. 

We  do this by being the middle person, a match maker, there  to open up the universe of options for them. To navigate the mass of titles and help them narrow down a choice, so they can find what they re looking for-- be it something for just a fun, quick, escape, something deeper, or anything in between.

Today, I want to share an essay by Jennifer Chen, from Self earlier this month entitled, "I Highly Recommend Romance Novels If You're Really Going Through It Right Now," where Chen talked personally about how Romance novels "...saved me when self-help couldn't."

This is a great resource for you, not only to look at the broader RA issues I am talking about, but also to see how a specific genre can provide a much needed real world connection.

If you are anyone who has ever helped any reader-- which should be all of you or why do you read this blog-- this reader reaction to finding the right books for them is a wonderful resource to ward understanding WHY we do this work and WHAT "success" looks like from a reader perspective.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Attack of the Bests Lists 2022: Largehearted Boy's List of Online "Best of 2022" Book Lists

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Best Books 2022" series [and more backlist best options] you can use the best lists tag

Over the last week, many of the to "best lists were announced, including NPR Books We Love (which I talked about in detail here) and the NYT 100 Notable Books. But there are many more, and they are coming fast and furious from now until January. 

As I have said each and every year, I do not try to post every single best list here on the blog. Rather, I choose to highlight those that are especially useful to us as we help public library readers in real time. [Again, NPR Books We Love is at the top of that list].

But, there are a few outlets that do go out of their way to keep track of every BEST list for you all in one place. 

Today I want to highlight my favorite-- Largehearted Boy and their Online "Best of 2022" list of lists.

Click here to enter the master list of lists

You can use this link for 2022's lists of every best list-- in alpha order. From general lists like the NYT one linked above, to super specific ones based on interests or type of publication, this master list of all the best lists is guaranteed to help you identify a title of interest for every patron.

The only problem you may have is that the books your patron wants are checked out because they are on the year's lists. But of course, readers of this blog know how to fix that problem-- the backlist!

One of the reasons I support Largehearted Boy's online lists of lists every year is not only because it is so comprehensive and easy to use, but also, because he makes the backlist access SO easy.

At the bottom of the page there is access to all 15 years of lists. Links to all of the best lists for 15 years, without having to construct a search or even click-- just scroll. I promise you, with the breadth of offerings you will be able to find a "best" read on the shelf for any patron without having to go back further than 1 year or 2. 

So, buckle up for the attack of the best lists to kick into a higher gear, but don't worry about knowing about them all, or missing one-- Largehearted Boy has got you covered. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Fun Display and List Idea: A Thanksgiving Reading Menu via Book Riot

As we move into the Thanksgiving Holiday break, and this blog is off until Monday, I thought I would  share this fun list from Book Riot: 

Pass the cranberry sauce! We’re having mashed potatoes! Hold that thought — before the big Thanksgiving meal/weekend, you’ll need a proper reading list to go with such a banquet. This is not your ordinary reading list. Think of it as a menu for reading. 

If you’ve ever cooked all or some of a big holiday meal, you know that there is a decent amount of waiting time involved. A standard thanksgiving turkey takes 4-5 hours to cook, more if you forget to defrost the turkey on time. 

How to use this menu: while your main course is roasting on the oven, help yourself to some nibbles, appetizers, and drinks. Ahem, flash fiction, short stories, and refreshing nonfiction. For the main course, we’re having a selection of richly detailed 400+ page novels, with sequels to accompany. Then, for dessert, help yourself to a sweet romance or two. Later in the evening, or tomorrow, there’s an assortment of anthologies to satisfy your cravings for a bit of everything. Line up your stacks or load up your ereader and phone with your selections and turn the holiday weekend into a reading challenge. 

No matter how you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, finding time to relax and read is always a good idea. 

Click here to read the full menu of book options. 

While I realize it is too late for you to use this list and its menu categories for Thanksgiving 2022, keep this idea in your back pocket for next year, or for many feast based event. It is a fun and interactive idea. It shows people you are thinking outside the box and truly trying to find them a great read. You are not simply giving them books set during the holiday. And it also showcases all of the different types of books you have from a perspective that is not genre based.

Again, click here for he entire article. And thanks for Book Riot for providing it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Library Journal Offers a Free Online Day of PRH Authors Featuring Me


Click Here to Register

On Thursday, December 8th, Library Journal and School Library Journal are offering an online festival, panels with PRH authors from across the reading landscape. 

You can click here to see the entire free event. I would suggest registering now because you will be able to watch it after the day as well.

Specifically, I will be doing this panel (although we are pre-recording)

11:55 AM–12:45 PM ET | Haunting Tales

Demons, a plague of tornadoes, and haunting legacies stalk these pages. Join authors and a leading horror expert in a conversation about stories and the importance, and influence, of the genre. 


V. Castro, The Haunting of Alejandra (Del Rey)

Jessica Johns, Bad Cree (Doubleday)

James Kennedy, Bride of the Tornado (Quirk Books)

Victor LaValle, Lone Women (One World)

My goal for these events is to not only provide a panel where you learn about the specific titles but also, I make it a priority to allow the authors to let their personalities show. And, I also give them space to teach you more about what horror means to them.

And if you need another reason to register for something that is free and can be viewed on demand, I have already turned in a STAR review of Castro's book for the January issue of Library Journal. You can get a preview here.

I hope you can join all of us who are working hard to provide a fun and useful session.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Attack of the Best Lists 2022: Washington Post

This post is part of my year end "Attack of the Best Lists" coverage. To see every post in my "Best Books 2022" series [and more backlist best options] you can use the best lists tag

The Washington post recently reinstated their standalone Sunday pull out book section-- Book World  This was great news, but even better news, they also rethought their "Best Books" coverage as well.

They have the expected "bests" such as:

And then they threw in a wild card near and dear to my heart:
Literally a list that says everything I always tell you. A book can be "best" at any time. People appreciate a  great read for the read's sake. The average reader does not care when a book came out, just that it is good. I love that the Washington Post is shinning a light on this important point. But then they even went 1 step further with:
In this article, columnist Michael Dirda, contemplates something I am always saying as well, "Books of the past not only add to our understanding. They offer repose, renewal and perspective. Also, they can be fun."

Although we know this already, it is nice to see a major "best" list spending time singing the praises of the backlist.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Genre Updates: Trends in Romance and SF/FSY

Staying up to date with the trends and changes in the genres makes our job easier, whether you are a fan of that genre or not. There are many ways to stay in genre shape and I have a bunch of them listed here.

That is the Becky's Favorite Free Genre Resources page and it is also always linked on my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service page.

Today I have 2 specific resources that you can peruse quickly to get a sense of where 2 popular reading areas heading at this moment.

The first is from the editors at Harlequin, the larger publisher  of romance, writing about what they see as the biggest trends in the genre.

The second is my colleague and friend, Kristi Chadwick, the Science Fiction and Fantasy columnist for Library Journal. She has her SFF Genre Preview (similar to what I write for Horror) in the current issue of LJ and online. In this article she previews key titles and talks about the emerging trends. 

Take a look at these articles today. It won't take long. And then bookmark my Genre Resources page for later. You can systematically go through all of the genres and check in to see what is new and different from the last time you looked. You don't have to do it all at once either. Make a plan to take a close look at each genre at least once a year.

Back Monday-Wednesday next week and then off Thursday-Friday.