CLICK HERE for quick access to the materials for the 2016-17 Speculative Fiction Genre Study.
The website now features UNRESTRICTED access, including notes from our meetings; however, in order to attend the meetings in person, you must be a member of ARRT. Click here for information about how you can join.


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.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Library Reads: January 2018

I really thought this was the month I stopped prefacing my monthly Library Reads announcement with a statement about diversity. We were doing so much better. But, nope. We got 1 diverse title-- The Wedding Date. It is a great one though.

So you are still getting my double preamble for the monthly list. It’s about diversity but also about why we do this list. Here’s some hard truth-- Last time I checked every library worker knows that the new JoJo Moyes and Jayne Ann Krentz will be popular. Why are we wasting our time nominating those books? Let's get lesser known books on there.


Read below. There is a statement about nominating more diverse books and a statement on how to use the list to help patrons.

Library Reads is a great thing, but WE together are Library Reads. Let’s work to make it awesome and representative.


This is your monthly Library Reads announcement.

I usually just cut and paste the same intro each month, but for the next few months I am amending it with this long introduction. I want to address the fact that Library Reads has been called out for their lists being too "white." While this is a fair criticism, blaming Library Reads is not fair because Library Reads and their Steering Committee are only the ones running the website, coordinating the eArc process, and counting the votes, the voters who pick the books are ALL OF YOU!!!! [Seriously, Steering Committee members votes do not come into play. I looked into it.]

So that means all of you-- all of us-- are falling down on the job of nominating more diverse titles-- both in terms of the ethnicity and race of the author and the genres represented. So I think the problem requires action in a two pronged strategy.

First, we need more of you to participate, especially those of you who read more diversely and widely. Basically Library Reads needs new blood. Library reads is SUPER EASY to participate in, yet despite that, as I travel the country meeting all of you, many of you do not participate and surprisingly, a lot of you don't even now how to begin. So, we are going to fix that. Here's the recording of a LibraryReads webinar on how to participate.

But one fallacy about Library Reads is that you have to write a full annotation in order for your vote to be counted. That is not true. You just need to read [or honestly skim] the eARC and then rate the book and submit your vote to Library Reads. But the webinar will explain it all.

I know many of you have not gotten involved because you thought that it was too difficult. I am here to tell you it is not. So let's get some new people submitting votes. It only takes a few new people to make a big difference. I am calling on you, my readers [and there are thousands of you reading this] to step up and make your voices heard.

Second, stop voting for the obvious books. I know you like the big name authors. We all do, but seriously people, voting for big name, huge bestselling authors over and over again is helping no one. Looking at the list below for August 2017, WHY is Louise Penny taking a spot from a less well known author. Look don't get me wrong. I LOVE Louise Penny [proof here]. For goodness sake, if you go on NoveList and see the author appeal statement for her-- I WROTE THAT. So I am not dissing her. I adore her novels. But seriously is there a library worker in America who hasn't hear of Louise Penny AND who doesn't have this author on automatic order already? NO!

We are Library Reads. We need to do better. Library Reads needs to be more proactive in helping library workers identify the great books we wouldn't know about without this resource. Don't squander the opportunity to read a great under the radar title- early and for free- and to then pass it on to others. Read Louise Penny early for yourself, but spend your time voting for the titles that will not find an audience without your expert help.

If we keep voting for the mainstream titles, the publishers will keep spending money signing similar authors, but if we use our power to vote for more diverse and less mainstream works that we know our patrons would love, titles that no one would know about without us raising our voice to be heard, we can make great change. We can force the publishers to sign more diverse authors and we can get some great reads into more library collections, and we can have a backlist archive of great titles for all readers.

I am not going to tell you what to vote for though. I want you-- all of you-- to decide for yourselves. Me telling you would be as bad as the publishers forcing titles on us [which they already do]. The more voices we can gather who each independently choose the books that they are passionate about, the better the list will be. It will be more diverse by default when more of us use this two pronged approach that I have outlined today.

Remember, Library Reads is not a nebulous group of librarians lording over us-- it is you, me, your co-workers. It is up to us to do the right thing here because goodness knows, the publishers aren't going to do it unless we force them to.

Let's work together to make Library Reads more diverse and reflective of the full range of great books that are coming down the pike, then when we go to use these lists as a backlist tool we have an ever better resource at our fingertips.

[Now back to your regular Library Reads message.]

Library Reads day means 3 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 Library Reads is the compound interest it is earning. We now have hundreds and hundreds of titles worth suggesting right at our fingertips.
  3. You have no excuse not to hand sell any Library Reads titles because there is a book talk right there in the list in the form of the annotation one of your colleagues wrote for you. All you have to say to your patron is, “such and such library worker in blank state thought this was a great read,” and then you read what he or she said.
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. 

January 2018 LibraryReads

The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin

Published:1/9/2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 9780735213180
“A thought-provoking, sweeping family saga set in New York City’s Lower East Side, 1969. Four siblings sneak out to visit a psychic who reveals to each, separately, the exact date of his or her death. The book goes on to recount five decades of experience shaped by the siblings attempts to control fate.”    Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN

The Wife Between Us: A Novel

by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published: 1/9/2018 by St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250130921
“A thriller told from the perspective of three narrators:  a woman, her ex-husband, and his fiance. The storyline is intricate and nonlinear and the characters are likable, but unreliable. This one will keep you guessing.”    Kelly Moore, Carrollton Public Library, Carrollton, TX

The Woman in the Window: A Novel

by A.J. Finn

Published: 1/2/2018 by William Morrow
ISBN: 9780062678416
“A menacing psychological thriller that starts out like Rear Window and then veers off into unexpected places. An agoraphobic recluse languishes in her New York City home, drinking wine and spying on her neighbors. One day she witnesses a crime that threatens to expose her secrets.”    Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cuyahoga, OH 

Promise Not To Tell

by Jayne Ann Krentz

Published: 1/2/2018 by Berkley
ISBN: 9780399585272
“Virginia owns a successful art gallery in Seattle now, but she has had to overcome many demons from her childhood in a cult. When one of her artists commits suicide, leaving her a mysterious message, she suspects the cult leader may have resurfaced.”     Kelly Rohde, Mead Public Library, Sheboygan, WI​

The Wedding Date

by Jasmine Guillory

Published: 1/30/2018 by Berkley Jove
ISBN: 9780399587665
“Drew is in San Francisco for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. When he finds himself stuck in an elevator with Alexa, they hatch a plan to go to the wedding together, pretending to be a couple. Told in alternating points of view, this is a delightful multicultural romance.”    Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, WI

Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel

by Marie Benedict

Published: 1/16/2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 9781492646617
“Engaging, richly-detailed, biographical, and historical fiction. In 1860s Pittsburgh, Clara, an Irish immigrant takes a job working as a maid for Andrew Carnegie, with whom she falls in love, and then goes missing.”    Carol Ann Tack, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY

Beneath the Sugar Sky

by Seanan McGuire

Published: 1/9/2018 by
ISBN: 9780765393586
“McGuire continues her astounding Wayward Children series with the third volume. A fantastical journey to find and resurrect a mother in a land of sweets. A great fantasy for those who want to give the genre a try.”    Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA 

Still Me: A Novel

by Jojo Moyes
Published: 1/30/2018 by Pamela Dorman Books
ISBN: 9780399562457

“The irrepressible Louisa Clark is back and she has a new job as an assistant to the super wealthy Gopniks in New York City. She’s thrilled, a little overwhelmed, and unsure how distance will affect her relationship with her boyfriend, Sam. A spirited look at New York high society.”      Donna Maturri, Pickerington Public Library, Pickerington, OH 

The Girl in the Tower: A Novel

by Katherine Arden

Published: 12/5/2017 by Del Rey
ISBN: 9781101885963
“Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko and together they saved her people from destruction. Compelling political intrigue set in medieval Russia with a twist of folklore and some lush and inventive world building.”    Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY 

Eternal Life: A Novel

by Dara Horn

Published: 1/23/2018 by W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 9780393608533
“Ever since she made a deal to save her son’s life in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rachel has been doomed to live eternally. When one of her grandchildren tries to study the secret of her longevity and asks for a DNA sample,  her world spins out of control.”      Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Library, Austin, TX

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Booklist’s Editor’s Choice Lists

Today, Booklist released their 2017 Editor’s Choice Lists. Below is their release language with links, but first I have some things I want to point out about why the Booklist best lists are special.

There is a reason I write reviews for Booklist and it is because I feel like its mission fits best with what I am trying to do. At Booklist if we do not think a book should be in your library’s collection, we don’t waste our time reviewing it. You have other resources for that. We are librarians. We know how much you all have to do. Reading reviews of books that aren’t worth your time helps no one-- not you and definitely not our patrons who want the best collections for their needs. Our reviews might not be as early as those by others, but they are all worth your time.

Booklist is also part of the ALA so it is a not for profit. They do not take bribes for reviews. They do not write the magazine to make a profit. They do it all to help you. I support that.

But the final reason I write for Booklist is illustrated in the lists you see below. Booklist understands that genre titles are important. They understand that genre titles are among some of our most popular books at the library. I know they understand this, but I was almost in tears today when I saw the Editor’s Choice for All Adult Books they included STRANGE WEATHER by Joe Hill. A horror book that I reviewed! But a horror book in the overall best list. It was not relegated to a special genre area. It was not just deemed good for horror, it was good for ALL types of books for all libraries.

I agree of course, but I am so used to being the only one screaming about the value of genre books and fighting for not putting them in a corner, that I was a bit taken aback.. You can click here to see that list; they used my language in the annotation. Plus there is a link to my review.

Thank you Booklist and all my editors and friends who work there for proving me right in my choice to share my knowledge and passion with your publication.

By the way I have looked though all of the adult lists, and especially in the Adult Nonfiction, I found a lot of great titles I am not seeing on other best lists; some that I didn’t even know about. I can’t wait to start suggesting them to readers [starting with myself and this one].

Finally, if your library doesn’t subscribe to Booklist please show them this post and argue for it. They do more to help you as you strive to provide the very best RA Service than any other library journal. Literally you can use every single issue to make a display and help patrons because each issue is a spotlight on a specific topic- including a best list for the last calendar year. And there are reviews on top of that! It pays for itself.
Our editors have selected the following titles as representative of the year's outstanding books and media for public library collections. To see our full lists of Editors' Choice titles, hyperlinked to their Booklist reviews, please follow the links below.

Adult Books, 2017

Audio for Adults, 2017

Adult Books for Young Adults, 2017

Books for Youth, 2017

Audio for Youth, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Year in Books 2017 From Amazon’s POV

Say what you want about Amazon, but they know a lot about the reading habits of their customers. Yes, it is creepy and it is one of the reasons I buy very few books from them, but as a library worker their treasure trove of data is very useful to us.

Because Amazon sells a lot of self published authors AND has Audible, they also give us a much fuller picture of what is being read in America by everyone than we get from traditional best seller lists which give more weight to more traditionally published books even though some self published, ebook titles may actually sell more copies than some of the titles on the traditional lists.

Amazon has put all of this data to a very good use as far as those of us serving leisure readers in the public library are concerned with their release of the 2017 Year in Books Charts.

No matter how you feel about Amazon, you need to visit this page. It isn’t tied to the year the books were published, it is tied to what was read this year. And it is real people and their habits not critics. We all know that people pick what to read based on a variety of reasons and critical acclaim is often not the largest determining factor. This chart reflects a full cross section of American readers. In other words, this chart is a report on what our patrons were actually most interested in reading this year. 

WE NEED TO KNOW THIS. Many libraries do not fully understand what our patrons really want. Well, this resource is a step forward in that regard.

Every single one of you who reads this blog needs to look at it. You will see media tie-tie ins like It and The Handmaid’s Tale as well as the critical darlings. There is data aggregated by state, and even further down, by month, there are lists of the most quotable books, and even the most “unputdownable.” You will see lists of the most read translated books and even the most popular animals in books [library workers know this might be the most important list, hint cats aren’t happy].

They also have an entire section on cover trends of the year. [See yesterday’s post for more on that topic].

Browsing through the chart will give you a much better sense of what our patrons are looking for than any other resource. Use it for collection development, use it for displays, use it for conversation starters. Just use it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Judge a Book By Its Cover

Every once in a while I bring back this concept. Please, please, please judge a book by its cover. The publishers pay a lot of money to make a cover that sells to book to people as they pass by. They articulate the appeal of the book-- who would most enjoy it-- with images. If they put so much time and effort into the covers, why aren't we using them to make our job easier?

Much of it has to do with bad school librarians or teachers we had as kids who scolded us for doing this. Well, I have made my entire career off of debunking library stereotypes and going out of my way to rethink how we do things, so today's topic is perfect, and it works like magic.

For example, when you see pastel colors on the cover expect a lighter tone. Lots of dark colors-- darker tone. Black with lots of red usually means violence inside.  Complex or ambiguous covers-- probably a complex plot. And of course sexy covers-- steamy books.

Here is the link to a 2008 post where I first elaborated on this concept.

The point is that while the cover cannot tell you what happens in the book, it tells you quite a bit about what the feel of the book is. It sets the tone for the words inside. 

I often use the cover of a book to begin talking to a patron about the book, especially when I don't know anything about that book. I will say something like, "From what I've heard, this book looks like you may enjoy it, but let's look at it together before you decide to take it home." I then use a combination of the NoveList record, Goodreads entry [plot and the 5 star AND 2 star comments] and the cover to have a conversation about the title in question with the patron.

Patrons love this "behind the scenes" peek at how we do our job. Obviously you can only do the long version with patrons who have time, but in a pinch, I grab a book and literally book talk to cover and the plot summary on the book itself. On books from the last 5 years to the present, there is often an appeal statement to begin the plot summary which helps. But with practice you can book talk the appeal of a book, from just the cover and reading the flap together.

Again, I am honest with the patron on what I am doing. I outright admit I know nothing more than what they do, but make it clear that I know how to "read" the cover. Patrons also love the conspiratorial nature of this interaction. We are "one upping" the publishers at their own game, and we are playing our own game of guess the book's appeal. I find that for many patrons, playing this "game" with me makes them more willing to give these "cold" suggestions a try. They are also more willing to come back and share what "actually" happened in the book with me and they give me detailed comments on the feel of the book and if it matched the cover or not.

Again, it won't work for every patron, but it works with quite a few. They will be easier to help because they are more willing to just take the book [it's free!] and give it a try AND, more importantly, this method entices more of them to come back and give us feedback on the book and our service. This later interaction is the one all of us are most looking for.

Here are some links to get you started on your judge a book by its cover adventure. In the first two examples you can begin your RA conversation with the cover because they have been deemed "best" by reputable sources. Yet another interesting way to frame the "best" books interaction [for more on that topic by me, click here]. The second two links are for sources which regularly assess cover trends so you can keep judging books by their covers all year long. In fact, I have had fun with cover trends displays and simply discussing these trends with regular patrons [many of whom check out as many books with the cover trend as possible and then report back to us about the books and how they are the same and different]:

Give it a try. You will have fun and improve your RA Service by encouraging it to move from the suggestion only phase to a service which is about having conversations about books and reading. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

What I’m Reading: December Issue of Indie Picks

Have you subscribed to Indie Picks yet for your library? The December issue is out and I have three reviews that showcase the full breadth of horror from spooky to terrifying and a feature interview.  [You can visit the horror blog here for the feature interview]

You can click here to see tons of sample material. This magazine is a must read for library workers and patrons. We work very hard to let you know about a small sample of the independently published, books that would be perfect for your library, if only you knew to buy them.  You can click here to read my longer post about why Indie Picks is worth your money.

Today I have my draft reviews from this issue. A final reminder though. I pick these books very carefully. I truly believe most public libraries should add every title I include. I wouldnt review them if I didnt think they would work for a general public library audience. To help you booktalk each title I have also included multiple readalike options at the end of each review and my “three words."

Becky’s December 2017 DRAFT Indie Picks Magazine Horror Column

Horror is more popular than ever, but what readers find horrific is highly personal and varies widely from those who cannot handle more than a few ghosts to some who want to intensely experience the fear with all five of their senses. Thankfully, there is a wide range of horror to satisfy just about every reader, from spooky to terrifying here are three options that capture the full spectrum of thrills and chills.

Spooky Suspense

Patricia V. Davis follows up her National Book Critics Circle Award nominated COOKING FOR GHOSTS with her second entry in the Secret Spice Cafe series, SPELLS AND OREGANO [HD Media Press, Inc; 978-0-9899056-8-8; $15.95; 2017]. Once again the setting is on the Queen Mary, and its well known status as one of the most haunted places in America sets the uneasy atmosphere before you even open the cover, and once you do open it, Davis hits the ground running with an excellent dual plotline, supernatural thriller. Sarita is the manager of The Secret Spice Cafe, the upscale restaurant aboard the Queen Mary [founded in book one]. She is a troubled young woman with psychic abilities and a strong connection to the ship’s spirits. Luca is a young man who has suffered much personal loss but a family connection draws him to the Queen Mary. Luca and Sarita meet and fall in love, but their pasts are literally coming back to haunt them. As Sarita and Luca’s stories unfold, their plot lines converge, and the danger increases. Along the way, Davis throws in well developed secondary characters and many engaging and well researched details about food, magicians, psychics, and the stately Queen Mary herself, all without sacrificing the compelling pace; in fact, these details are equally as engrossing as the heart-racing suspense. By the end the stakes are high and all are held breathless awaiting the shocking conclusion. Don’t worry if you missed the first book in the series, this one can stand alone. It is perfect for both readers who enjoy the supernatural psychological suspense of Jennifer McMahon and also those who love Nora Roberts’ storytelling prowess across many genres. This is spooky suspense that will frighten just enough to make readers give any movement in the shadows a hard, second look.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Supernatural Suspense, Multiple Storylines, Interesting Frame

Dark Dread

There is no question the dread and fear are ratched up in the next book, a dark fantasy by John Urbancik, THE CORPSE AND THE GIRL FROM MIAMI [DarkFluidity; 978-0-99838-824-3; $15; 2017]. The unease grabs the reader from the very first scene and really never lets go. A man returns from the dead, resurrected in a cemetery, in the driving rain, in a seedy section of Boston, with no memory, only an ID with an address. With no other options, he heads to the address and meets Ofelia and Mr Maker, both who have been waiting for him. Ofelia is a fem fatale who wants revenge, Mr Maker, a being with connections to a mythological world standing just outside of our own, and our corpse, Lucas, is just trying to figure out who he is and how he fits into the story. The three protagonists, in their three storylines, are laid out in alternating chapters, with the point of view quickly bouncing back and forth. Readers will be engrossed, turning the pages, following the leads, seeing the stories converge, and finding out that they are all after the same thing-- a diamond with more power than any of them can imagine. The mythological details about the magic inherent in a place are captivating, the old fashioned pulp heist story fantastic, and the resurrected corpses add just the right amount of supernatural horror. Come for the awesome action and world building, but stay for the characters, especially Lucas as he searches for the answers to the man he was and struggles to figure out who he is supposed to be now. This original, dark fantasy tale is a must read for fans of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series with touches reminiscent of Seanan McGuire and Gaiman’s American Gods.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Mythological Tone, Engrossing, Original

Traditional Terror

While the first two books showcase how horror can slip into stories that are firmly rooted in other genres, sometimes readers just want a traditional tale of terror by a master of the form. Enter Bentley Little and his terrifying supernatural mystery THE HANDYMAN [Cemetery Dance Publications; 978-1-58767-616-1; $25; 2017]. Daniel, now an adult real estate agent, recounts the story of his family’s encounters with Frank, the handyman who built their Arizona vacation home back in the 1980s, who at best is a con artist, but at worst is a man with a connection to an otherworldly evil. Daniel thought his family was the only one destroyed by Frank and the homes he built, but after hearing a client mention the problems with his family’s “Frank” home, Daniel goes on a cross country search to try to understand the truth behind Frank. What Daniel undercovers, however, is much more sinister and dangerous than he could have ever imagined, and now his life and all those he knows and loves may be in perilous danger. Told in three distinct parts each with a unique style, the terror intensifies throughout. Part one reads like a traditional supernatural investigation, while part two is a series of impressions of Frank from the point of view of others over the years, and finally, part three brings Daniel and his friends back for the horrific and disorienting conclusion. Little has also infused the story with Asian horror influences, some overt and others more subtle. The result is a trippy and terrifying story of an insidious horror hidden just behind the walls. Pair this with other terrifying, surreal tales of deadly haunted homes like THE HOUSE OF LEAVES by Danielewski or SLADE HOUSE by Mitchell. Fair warning though, don’t hire anyone to do work on your house for a few weeks before or after reading this one.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Terrifying, Surreal, Asian Influences

Friday, December 8, 2017

RA for All Roadshow Visits Addison [IL] Public Library With Tips on In-Service Planning and Avoiding Jargon

Today I will be at Addison [IL] Public Library as one of the presenters for their in-service day. Addison, like a few other libraries I have visited recently, is using the “Conference” model for their staff training: planners have arranged for a variety of presenters on a wide range of topics and staff are encouraged to explore those topics that most interest them.

I love this idea because it allows staff to learn about something, whether or not is is specifically tied to their every day job. As we all know, working at the public library in one capacity does not mean you will not be called upon to help out somewhere else at some point; in fact, that’s pretty much the only thing you can count on at the public library, having to know a little bit about every job.

Of course, administrators can direct certain staff to a particular training session, but the idea that every staff member can choose their own CE adventure is a great way to make staff more invested in their own learning and continuing education. It will energize everyone to get the most out of the in service day. And it will be more fun. More fun means people pay more attention which should translate to more learning.

I don’t think this model would work for every library out there, but it is something to consider for your next in-service day. If you are a small library, this would would very well if you combined in-service training to do with other libraries. [Another trend I see quite often in more rural locations].

But back to day and my second point in this post. I will be offering my signature RA for All program followed by the Booktalking program for the staff at Addison who choose to join me. However, because Brooke, the Assistant Director of Addison Public Library, didn’t want the jargon [what does RA for All or Booktalking mean to non RA staff?] to confuse people and keep them from trying my sessions simply because they didn’t understand what was being offered, she asked if she could rebrand them. I eagerly said yes, not only because I have known Brooke for years and trust her, but also because it is an excellent point. How will nonprofessional staff be able to make an informed choice about which sessions to attend if they don’t even understand the title of the the program.

So today instead of RA for All and Booktalking, I will be presenting....

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to keep participating in #LibFaves17, it will go on throughout the weekend. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What I’m Reading: Zero Day to Commemorate the Final Meeting of the ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study

Today I have a starred review of the final book in a trilogy. The star I gave this final book is really a star for the entire series. I have enjoyed the other books in the series which I wrote about here and here, but with the publication of the final installment I can 100% tell you that this is a must buy and a must read.  

Even though this review was published last week, I held it for today because it is the final meeting of the two-year ARRT Speculative Fiction Genre Study.  You can click here for all of the notes and assignments

Specifically this is our [final] assignment for later today:

Lunch, Book Talks, and Wrap-Up

December 7, 2017, 2-4 PM
Glenview Public Library
  • Come prepared to share a 90-second booktalk on an author or book we didn’t cover the course of the genre study. Please bring a printout of the booktalk so we can include it in the notes.

Which brings me back to the review for today, this book is the perfect title to showcase speculative fiction today. It is fun, draws from different genres, and can be read by a wide range of readers, even those who don’t think they like speculative fiction. 

[On a side note, today is also my final time in 5 years where I had some type of leadership responsibilities for the genre study. I will not be a part of the team running the 2018-19 Romance genre study, but I will still be posting notes and assignments here on the blog.]

Here is the draft of my Booklist review which I will be presenting as my book talk:

Zero Day.

Boone, Ezekiel (author)

Feb. 2018. 336p. Atria/Emily Bestler, hardcover, $26 (9781501125102); e-book (9781501125133)First published December 1, 2017 (Booklist).

Following directly on the heels of THE HATCHING and SKITTER, Boone brings his excellent spider-apocalypse thriller to an exciting conclusion in ZERO DAY. Back is the same realistic, fast paced, edge of your seat action from the first two books, as the story continues to bounce around the world, following the cast of well developed and diverse characters readers have grown to loathe and love, as they inch closer to figuring out the key to defeating the spiders who are systematically destroying humanity. This final installment has everything readers crave in a solid thriller series, speculative or realistic, but it is the spiders, the inherent fear they invoke, their ability to reproduce efficiently, and their evolution as actors in this drama that raises the stakes, the suspense, and the enjoyment here. Also, unlike most adventure stories, this one is not fueled by testosterone; in fact quite the opposite, as it is the women here who posit that the key to saving the world might be in understanding the spider queens. In particular it is a female scientist and US President who fight the men to be heard, take over, and lead the final charge, hoping that their intuition will save all of humanity, but fully knowing that if they are wrong, the world as we know it will end. Readers will race to the trilogy’s finish with our heroes, and be glad that they went along for the entire ride. ZERO DAY cements the entire series as one you will be handing out for years to come for fans of all high action thrillers, but especially for those who like the speculative frame in titles by Mira Grant, Jonathan Maberry and Ben H. Winters. But more importantly, it is a series worth rooting for. In a landscape where the adventure thriller seems to be dragging, it is clear all we needed were some spiders to revive it.
Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough how this is a perfect thriller with or without the spiders. To prove this point, I gave it to a patron who loves Baldacci and doesn’t really like apocalyptic or speculative fiction. She literally couldn’t put the first two books down. Well, let me rephrase that, she only put them down when she started to feel things crawling on her. She took a break but went back to it as soon as she could. Yesterday I gave her my ARC of this third book. She cannot wait to finish the series.

As a reader, I also liked how this series shows the apocalypse as it unfolds, in real time. Many apocalyptic series start post apocalypse and then they go back and show you how things got to be destroyed through flashbacks while they concentrate the “present" action on how people are surviving. Here, in Boone’s series, we watch the apocalypse happen in real time and the focus is on the battle to stop it. Choices, both good and bad, are made, and they are made urgently as things are unfolding quickly. We the reader can see all over the world and know things the local actors do not. All of this adds suspense, drama, and intrigue to the story.

Finally, I have to say it.....SPIDERS! Seriously, is there anything people in general are more scared of than spiders? Nope. It’s genius to have them bring the apocalypse.

Three Words That Describe This Book: fast-paced, speculative thriller, fun

Readalikes: All three mentioned in the review above are the best matches as they are all series that share the fast-paced, speculative thriller, and fun appeal factors, but many realistic political thrillers would work also work, like Baldacci.

World War Z is also a good readalike, and that is a book that also had cross-over appeal for people who don’t normally like supernatural aspects to their geo-political thrillers. However, World War Z  is told entirely in flashback. If you really liked the speculative apocalypse in real-time aspects of the Boone series, I would suggest The Fireman by Joe Hill instead.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Becky Three Favorite Non-traditional Best of the Year Lists Make the Best Resources for All Year Long

With the overwhelming number of best books lists that come at us at the end of the year [by the way, click here for the best archive for just about every list in the world], it is not only hard to manage the volume of information, but it is hard to know which lists are the most useful for us as we help patrons who are looking for a good read.

First, you need to read this post from 2015 where I discuss what patrons actually mean when they come to us asking for a “best book.” Go on. I’ll be here when you get back.

Okay, now second, you need to find resources that not only include older “best” books [because if you read that post you would see that patrons don’t care when a book was “best,” they just want assurances that someone thought it was good enough for them to invest their time in it], but also are easy for you to use as you are having the RA conversation with the patron.

Patrons can look up best lists themselves. The ones who come to the library want a little more help. They want to talk about their options and they want our opinions on what they should read, not because we read it too, but because we know more about books than they do.

That is why every year I celebrate the release of my three favorite best lists, which all came out this week. They are:

  • Goodreads Choice Awards: This is the only list that is 100% driven by readers. Yes it’s a popularity contest and not always the “best” book wins [Stephen and Owen King’s only so-so book won best horror], but that’s the point. The people get to chose their favorites for whatever reason they have. And like when we help readers in real life, the reasons for their choices don’t always make sense to us. But who cares? I love this list because it is for the people, by the people, and as a result, it more closely matches what we encounter each and every day at the public library. 
  • NPR Book ConciergeThis annual list is a favorite of mine because it puts all of the best books into a single pile and then allows the user of the list to customize the results-- thus making the results list itself driven by the specific reader who is using it at that moment. The filters are not just genre labels, but rather, based on actual reader tastes.  So, you can click on "the dark side," and get a list of 71 choices, and then go even deeper by adding the "rather long" filter on top of it and get 4 choices. That list can be created by one reader. But another readers could apply the filters,  “for history lovers" and “ladies first" and get 12 different-- yet still "best"-- titles. Each list is "best" for the reader in question. No need to worry about creating a one size fits all best list. I love that readers can interact with the NPR Best Books Concierge and make themselves the perfect list of the year's "best" offerings.
  • The Millions Year in Reading: This is not a best list at all, but rather essays by the authors of the most talked about books and/or the most important books of the year about what they read this year. This list has double the use because the authors are part of the “best” conversation themselves, but then to have the next level suggestion for patrons of the “best” authors’ favorite reads of the last year makes you look like a genius. Patron loved Sing, Unburied, Sing by Ward or is waiting for their hold to come in, why not also read what she read and loved this year? This option of reading what the patrons’ favorite authors read is a great way to showcase how helpful we can be to readers.

These lists are non-traditional in that they don’t simply give a best list, rather they all incorporate something a little different which also makes them the absolute BEST resource to help readers. We start with Goodreads 100% reader driven “best” lists and move to NPR’s editor picks for best but then a way to narrow it down for each reader based on the feel they are looking for and finally we can move to the opinions of the authors who themselves are tastemakers.

All three also make their backlist of previous year’s lists easily accessible from the main page of the current year’s list. You can’t miss them even if you weren’t thinking of using older lists. I love that.

All three of these lists can be easily used as you help patrons. They will encourage conversation about books and what the patron is looking for in their next read and, even more importantly, they can be used anytime throughout the year- using the current list of the plethora of older lists. Don’t just use these resources [old and new versions] at the end of each year. Keep them bookmarked as an option for every RA transaction you may have.

Seriously, try it out today with the next few patrons. You will have some of your best RA conversations of the year and everyone [you and the patron] will have a ton of fun!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

RA for All Virtual Roadshow Presents Demystifying Genre for PCI Webinars

This morning, I have my first of two genre webinars for PCI this month. You can think of them as helping genre readers 101 and 201.

Today’s-- Demystifying Genre-- is the overview of the most popular genres as they are written today, including the most recent trends. Here is the program description:
Nothing is scarier than trying to help a fan of a genre you yourself don’t enjoy. You want to help that, for example, Romance reader find the perfect book, but you are having trouble knowing where to begin because…eek!… you don’t read Romance. You are afraid they will find out you are a fraud. How can YOU possibly help THEM?!? Never fear, in this program, Readers’ Advisory expert, Becky Spratford, will teach you the basic appeals of the major genres, give you the inside track on what a fan of that genre is most drawn to, and provide you with talking points to get your genres readers to tell you what they want. You will leave this webinar with the confidence and skill to help fans of every genre, regardless of whether or not you have ever read a book in that genre yourself. And that will leave a trail of happy patrons in your wake.
You can click here for the slides and here for the handout with all of the links.

This presentation is very text heavy so that you can use it as notes, meaning even if you don’t hear me present this one, you can learn something from the slides and handout.

Please visit PCI for a list of all of their webinars. They offer a wide variety of library training options. You can also view archived webinars. For example, click here to see every webinar I have done for them.

But first, check with your local library system because many have a contract with PCI which allows you to view webinars for FREE. I know that this is true for anyone reading this from my local library system, RAILS [click here for those details].

Having worked with PCI for a while now, I can tell you they are very professional, pay their presenters fairly, and care about putting out a great product. You get top notch training for a very good price. And, they have the technical experts to make sure it looks and sounds good too.

Now let’s do this webinar and demystify genre for you so you can help every type of reader.

Click here for slide access

Monday, December 4, 2017

Call to Action: Countdown Your Top 10 of 2017

Today’s Call to Action is important whether you use Twitter or not, so if you are not on Twitter, don’t stop reading. I promise there is literally something for every single library worker in this post.

Today begins the annual countdown of library workers' favorite titles published in 2017 on Twitter. Using #LibFaves17, everyone in library land is encouraged to tweet out their favorite books published in 2017 beginning with #10 and counting down to #1. This is a facilitated conversation so all of the Tweets will be compiled and an overall Top 10 will be announced. There will also be a list of every title that even gets 1 mention.

This last point is why I choose to use this annual countdown as a way to highlight the best horror for libraries. Like I did last year, I will tweet my top 10 horror titles that were published in 2017 for the next 10 days. [Here is the link to today’s title] When it is over, I will have the entire list on my horror blog with more commentary and links to my longer reviews. This way I an ensuring that horror has a seat at the table.

Now back to my promise about including those of you who don’t use Twitter. First, a reminder that you don’t need an account to view the tweets, you just can’t participate. Click here to view #LibFaves17.

But everyone reading this, Twitter user or not, why not use this countdown as an inspiration to get your staff to do a countdown of their favorites from 2017. Anything released in 2017 that you circulate is eligible, so for example, if someone on staff is a big movie buff, they can countdown their favorite DVD releases of the year. Or maybe someone likes multiple formats; their list can have books, music, DVDs, etc....

The simplest way to do this would be to send out an email to all staff asking them to contribute to a library wide countdown. Ask them to send you their top 10 lists [ordered] by the end of the week. Then you can unveil a library-wide top ten in the building-- make a poster and uncover the next one each day. You can also release the countdown on all of your social media.

Not only is this  a super fun way to allow all staff to share their favorites with the entire community, but it also advertises that everyone on staff cares about providing quality materials for them to checkout and enjoy.

You can do a library wide countdown, but then each department can do one too. So the AV materials with the highest votes can be unveiled in the department, the kids materials there, etc.... Heck even each staff member who wants can post theirs.

Now this works best with a staff of 20 or more, but if you have fewer people, work together to make lists for each department.

Finally, so that I leave absolutely no one out and you have NO EXCUSES for not doing this, you could simply do a top ten countdown of the items with the highest circulation in 2017.

The point here is that I am calling you to action to do something to showcase your hyper-local “best” of the year. You can use any criteria for best. Don’t get so mired in arguing about the minutia that it doesn’t get done. Just do it.

For past Call to Action Posts click here.