Archive for the ‘Readers Advisory’ Category

NYPL Debuts Staff Picks Tool

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 10.03.54 AMThe New York Public Library is offering a new take on staff picks, a browse tool that combines the readers’ advisory features of appeal with the sort features of NPR’s Book Concierge.

Every month the NYPL staff posts 100 picks for adults, YAs, and children.

Those selections are tagged so that users can decide if they want a book driven by the appeal elements story or character, for example, and then select from a list of themes, such as “creepy,” “nail-biters,” or “tales of courage.” Order is not prescribed (themes can be picked first) and there is no limit to the number of tags a reader can choose.

Titles appear as a grid of jacket covers or a list of titles and neatly rearrange themselves on the screen as each tag is chosen.

Once happy with their selections, users can click on a cover image (or title) and read a short, signed annotation. Links to both the print and ebook records are on this same page.

News of the new interface made Bustle and GalleyChat.

Well done, NYPL.


RA Resource: Slate’s Audio
Book Club

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 2.13.20 PMLooking for another way to get oriented to popular books or ideas for book discussion? Consider dipping into Slate’s Audio Book Club, a monthly podcast of lengthy conversations about newish titles.

If book discussion groups were an English Lit. class they would be something like Slate’s podcast. Three interested and invested readers – armed with copious notes – gather to discuss a book in full detail, spoilers included. Participants tend to be picky, and even with books they enjoy are never shy about pointing out weaknesses.

9780385353304_db2df-2Sometimes the conversation also veers into larger topics. This month the three reviewers took up the subject of genre as they discussed Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (RH/Knopf; RH & BOT Audio; Thorndike; OverDrive Sample).

For all those increasingly confused and frustrated by genre borders it makes for interesting listening. The Slate readers conclude that Mandel intentionally plays around with genre, winking at conventions as she does so (despite her contention that she writes literary fiction).

Previous podcasts have covered All the Light We Cannot See, H is for Hawk, and Girl on the Train.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman is up next, in August.

(Note: it is called an audio book club because the conversations are delivered via podcast. They do not discuss audiobooks).

RA Alert: FRESH AIR’s Summer Reading Suggestions

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

NPR reviewer Maureen Corrigan, author of So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be And Why It Endures, offers a collection of early summer reading suggestions during a segment on NPR’s Fresh Air.

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She begins with Vendela Vida’s new novel, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (HarperCollins/Ecco; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample). A traveler loses her wallet and passport and “What ensues is a kind of existential suspense tale in which our heroine is at first paralyzed by the theft and then emboldened to borrow other women’s documents and identities.”

Corrigan calls Patricia Park’s debut novel Re Jane (Penguin/Pamela Dorman Books; OverDrive Sample) “a wickedly inventive updating of Jane Eyre.”

Two nonfiction works round out her picks.

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Deborah Lutz’s The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects (W.W. Norton) examines objects important to the Brontë sisters, including a dog collar, a writing desk, and an amethyst bracelet.

In No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival In WWII (Hachette/Little, Brown; OverDrive Sample), Robert Weintraub tells the story of the only official American canine POW, a dog named Judy who survived the horrors of a Japanese interment camp.

Corrigan says each of her picks “begin in familiar territory and then surprise us readers by going off into places we could never anticipate.” Read on indeed!

Nancy Pearl Suggests Crossover YA

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

In support of kid’s summer reading, librarian Nancy Pearl has been discussing books for young readers on her weekly radio show for Seattle’s NPR affiliate KUOW.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.19.41 AMThis week, however, she highlights a YA crossover she thinks adults will enjoy as well, Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2011; OverDrive Sample).

Set in 1936 on a fictional island nation between France and Spain, it features the journals of Sophie FitzOsborne, a sixteen year-old member of an impoverished royal family. Europe is about to fall to war, a fact made clear when German officers arrive at the shores of Montmaray.

Nancy compares it in tone to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.24.11 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.37.24 AMUnlike Smith’s standalone, A Brief History of Montmaray begins a trilogy. The other two books are The FitzOsbornes in Exile (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2012; OverDrive Sample) and The FitzOsbornes at War (RH/Knopf Books for Young Readers; 2012; OverDrive Sample).

Joining the chorus of voices championing YA books as crossovers, Nancy advises adults to browse the teen section when they are hunting for titles they would otherwise miss due to marketing and library classifications.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.31.55 AMScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.31.40 AMIn that spirit, last week she talked about Edward Carey’s Heap House (Overlook Press; OverDrive Sample). Intended for 11-12 year-olds, it also appeals to adult fans who like weird, luxuriantly imagined fantasy. It too is the first in a trilogy. Foulsham (Overlook Press; OverDrive Sample), book two in the series, comes out in early July.

The Librarian MAD MEN Connection

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 10.12.27 AMReaders who geek out on Mad Men already know Billy Parrott, the Managing Librarian of the Art and Picture Collections at the New York Public Library, from his contributions to #MadMenReading, his blog, The Man Men Reading List, and Pinterest board, all dedicated to the books featured in the series.

Now Parrott is partnering with AMC to create an official reading list and is capturing the attention of the media as the final season of Mad Men airs. The Guardian features Parrott in a lengthy piece on the key books of the series – including works by Frank O’Hara and Dante – while New York magazine asks Parrott to provide a run down of the best literary scenes from the show.

Taking the opportunity to plug the library profession, he tells The Guardian,

“This is what librarians do on a daily basis. Every morning, on the subway on the way to work, I look to see what others are reading, and I think about what else I might suggest for them if they came up to me in the library and asked for a recommendation.”

RA Help for New Terry Pratchett Readers

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.46.57 AMThe widely reported news of Terry Pratchett’s death is likely to send readers to the library. For those new to Pratchett, who wrote over 70 novels, many as part of the sprawling Discworld series, it can be hard to know where to start.

Readers’ advisors can turn to the A.V. Club’s well-considered path through Pratchett’s novels and consult BoingBoing’s posting of Krzysztof Kietzma’s handy infographic to the interrelated books in Discworld (unfortunately, it’s difficult to read. A larger version is available here).

BuzzFeed offers a ranked listing of his 30 best works while USA Today and Mashable suggest five starting titles.


Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.59.37 AMIt is the rare review that begins with such exuberant praise as “the most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read,” but that is the beginning of Ron Charles’s rave in yesterday’s Washington Post for T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville (HaperCollins/Morrow, Feb. 17; OverDrive Sample), a novel Charles goes on to claim will “shock and disturb” even as Johnson’s “narration has such athleticism that you feel energized just running alongside him — or even several strides behind.”

David L. Ulin of the LA Times shares Charles’s enthusiasm, opening his review with “when was the last time you were shocked by a turn in a novel? Not merely surprised or astonished but actually stunned?” and goes on to call Johnson’s novel “audacious, unpredictable, exuberant and even tragic, in the most classic meaning of the word.”

Welcome to Braggsville is an IndieNext pick for February, with the following recommendation,

“In Welcome to Braggsville, Johnson explores cultural, social, and regional diversity in a world increasingly driven by social media. His satirical and ironic style portrays a UC Berkeley — ‘Berzerkeley’ — student from Georgia who, along with his friends, goes back to his hometown to challenge an annual Southern tradition and inadvertently sets off a chain of events resulting in tragic consequences. Johnson’s creative language play envelops the reader in the Deep South with the impact of a razor-sharp Lynyrd Skynyrd riff.”

Johnson has jumped from a literary nonprofit publisher (Coffee House Press) to HarperCollins with his second novel (after his debut Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, which was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award). For your readers willing to be challenged, lift some quotes from Charles’s review, which also makes it sound like a strong book club candidate.

New for the New Year

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

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Need some titles for the tip of your tongue when people ask what to look for in the new year? Take a look at The Barnes & Noble Review‘s selections of “the most enticing new books slated to arrive in the first half of 2015″ and Entertainment Weekly’s “20 Books We’ll Read in 2015” (caution: as we noted earlier, some of the titles on the latter list won’t be out until the fall).

There’s not much agreement between the lists, with just three titles appearing on both lists.

Two overlaps are unsurprising, based on sheer name recognition — Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio, May 5) and Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child,(RH/Knopf; RH Audio, April 21).

The third is less obvious, James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods, (Hachette/Little,Brown; Hachette Audio, March 17). Entertainment Weekly warns, “Don’t let the appealing title fool you. This searing novel tackles death and big food corporations. Also, it’s partly narrated by crack cocaine. Yep,” Adds B&N, “James Hannaham kicks off his new novel (following his debut God Says No) with a teenager’s desperate escape from a twenty-first century slave plantation to which drug addicts are seduced to become captive labor.”

Check both lists. You’ll find at least one answer to the question, “Anything interesting coming out?”

RA Opportunity: SERIAL

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

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Serial, a nonfiction podcast designed by the creators of This American Life, has become such an obsession, that fans gathered for “listening parties” for the final episode of the first season in mid December. Since the episodes are posted at 7:30 on Thursday mornings, at least one of these events, held at a Lower Manhattan bar, was dubbed “Serial and Cereal” (with a splash of Jameson’s in the coffee).

The debut season, which began in October, focuses on a Baltimore high school student found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend and sentenced to life in prison. Each week, Sarah Koenig, the host of Serial, examines the case and goes where the evidence leads, introducing a rich cast of characters and an immersive and suspenseful story that has become the most listened-to podcast in the history of the medium (see coverage in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Entertainment Weekly).

Libraries have responded to the interest. The Chicago Public Library offers a reading list that includes nonfiction and audiobooks, such as Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (RH/Spiegel & Grau, 2014; OverDrive Sample) andThe Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber (Simon & Schuster, 2014; OverDrive Sample), also linking to the Serial site.

The New York Public Library highlights six books on criminal justice for Serial fans, including The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2010; OverDrive Sample). Fanwood Memorial Library in New Jersey also offers listeners guidance for next reading choices, including Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (Random House/Nan A. Talese, 1996; OverDrive Sample) and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House/Modern Library [reprint], 2013 ; OverDrive Sample).

In addition, Business Insider recently posted a list of suggested true crime books (such as Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me [Norton [20th Anniversary Ed], 2000; OverDrive Sample]) while BookRiot offers a list of audiobooks to try after Serial concludes (including Mary Roach’s Stiff  [Norton, 2003]).

There will be more. A second season has been announced, thanks to listener donations, although the subject and release dates have not yet been announced.

The Nancy Pearl Bump

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.11.23 PMLibrarian Nancy Pearl highlighted five under-the-radar titles on Friday’s NPR’s Morning Edition (link to listen to it), causing one of the titles to jump 2,442% on Amazon’s sales rankings.

She begins with The Diamond Lane by Karen Karbo. First published in 1991, it was reissued this fall by Hawthorne books (with an introduction by Jane Smiley). Nancy calls it a “fabulously funny satire on sisterly love, on marriage, but really, [Karbo’s] sharpest barbs are reserved for life in Hollywood.” Nancy makes host Steve Innskeep laugh heartily when she reads a section.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 8.10.14 PMJudging from Amazon’s sales rankings, the title
that resonated most with listeners, is the final book she describes, The Unsubstantial Air: American Fliers in the First World War by Samuel Hynes (Macmillan/FSG, Oct. 2014; OverDrive Sample).

Nancy considers this one of the best of the many books that have come out recently about WWI.
“It talks about the war in terms of the young men who came from American colleges to fly and to
fight in WWI … Hynes was able to access a treasure trove of journals and of letters from these young men, many of whom had never been to Europe before … he writes in such a beautiful way … and does a wonderful job of honoring them.”

The other titles on her list:

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The Distance by Helen Giltrow (RH/Doubleday; RH Audio; Sept. 2014; OverDrive Sample)

“All the time I was reading this, I had to keep telling myself to breath because I was so caught up in the story.” She says it’s perfect for those who love Lee Child. (This was also a LibraryReads pick for September).

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (Hachette/Mulholland; Hachette Audio, Aug. 2014; OverDrive Sample)

“A cautionary tale about the future … about a cabal of industrialists have decided to privatize information … It’s one of those books that when you’re reading it, you start feeling a little bit paranoid.”  (Time magazine also recognized this one, making it #6 on their Top Ten fiction list for the year).

Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
(HMH Books for Young Readers, Sept. 2004; OverDrive Sample).

This novel came out originally in 1988 and is written in letters between two cousins, one in London and one in Essex, in 1817. Although it is written for teens, says Nancy, it is “perfect for anyone who loves Jane Austen and doesn’t mind a little bit of fantasy.”

Readers Advisory:

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

9780804140232_8e1f2Among the titles on NPR’s just-released best books list is a title chosen by librarian Nancy Pearl, the debut novel, 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas. (RH/Crown; RH Audio).

Nancy also talks about it on her weekly Seattle NPR segment. You can hear the joy in Nancy’s voice as she describes this novel filled with “People  who are so real that you want their stories to go on and on and on — how often does that happen?” Seen through the eyes of a precocious 9-year-old wannabe torch singer, it is a “loving tribute to jazz and even more, to urban Philadelphia.”

OverDrive Sample 

The audio is an AudioFile Earphones Award winner. As the reviewer says, “Angela Goethals’s rich and resonant voice is perfectly suited to this stirring story about three characters and one important day in their lives.”

Nancy Pearl On the Past
and Possible Future

Monday, December 1st, 2014

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Recommendations from librarian Nancy Pearl on her recent Seattle NPR segments:

History Through The Eyes Of Poets — Nov. 26

Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew, Max Egremont, (Macmillan/FSG, 6/10/14)

Nancy recommends this title because it offers an on-the-ground view of WW I, through the eyes of the poets who were involved in it. Each chapter focuses on a year of the war, thus reflecting the changes in attitude as it grinds on.  In this 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war, she says it makes a great companion to The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell (Oxford University Press, 1975).

The Dystopian Future — Nov 18

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, David Shafer, (Hachette/Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio)

Nancy calls this first novel, “perfect for a great fast moving yet intricate account of a possible future in which a very dangerous kabal plans to take over information.”  She says it has the same “intelligence, crispness and smartness” as Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

Readers Advisory: DIAMOND LANE

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

9780989360449_622e4 It’s gray and raining in Seattle, so Nancy Pearl lifts the mood by recommending on her weekly local NPR radio segment, a novel that is  “hysterically funny.”  Karen Karbot’s The Diamond Lane, one of her favorites, first published in 1991, was reissued this fall by Hawthorne books (with an introduction by Jane Smiley).

Even though some sections of the novel may show their age (people can actually smoke on airplanes!), she says it is a “totally modern satire on Hollywood, the relationships between sisters and marriage.”

Media Hit: LibraryRead’s September Pick

Friday, September 12th, 2014

9780385353304_db2df-2Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, (RH/Knopf; RH Audio; Thorndike, Dec. 10), a LibraryReads pick for September, is getting enviable media attention. It is People magazine’s “Book of the Week” in the new issue; “Though it centers on civilization’s collapse in the aftermath of a devastating flu, this mesmerizing novel isn’t just apocalyptic fantasy — it’s also an intricately layered character study of human life itselff,” gets an A from Entertainment Weekly and the author was profiled by the  New York Times last week.

LibraryReads recommendation:

An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a cataclysmic event changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? These are just some of the issues explored in this beautifully written dystopian novel. Recommended for fans of David Mitchell, John Scalzi and Kate Atkinson. — Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

OverDrive Sample


Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

9780316231435_f1fc7Already having declared her love for Beth Macy’s nonfiction debut, Factory Man, (Hachette/Little, Brown, 7/15), in her summer previewNYT‘s daily reviewer, Janet Maslin, gave it a full review just before the holiday.

Her opinion is not dimmed. Saying this book, subtitled, How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — And Helped Save An American Town, is “in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers … Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down.”

She also notes that, since the book is published by Hachette, it is another victim of  the Amazon/Hachette battle and will not be available for purchase on Amazon until pub date or on Kindle,  but ” it’s worth the trouble to read what will be one of the best, and surely most talked about, books of 2014.”