Archive for the ‘Readers Advisory’ Category


Friday, June 2nd, 2017

The 2017 Audie Awards were announced last night by the Audio Publishers Association.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, narrated by Mariska Hargitay with the authors (Hachette Audio), took top honors as the Audiobook of the Year.

In giving the prize the judges call it “a must-have insider’s guide to the making of the musical” and write:

“Read by super-fan Mariska Hargitay, the audio takes listeners on a journey from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pool-side reading of Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton to Broadway success and propulsion into the zeitgeist. Fans will especially appreciate Miranda’s reading of his annotations, from the very first revelation that the distinctive three-note intro mimics a squeaky door. Just as the musical has expanded the audience for musical theatre, this audiobook has won new fans to the world of audiobooks, thanks in no small part to Miranda’s devoted social media following.”

The AudioFile review calls the work “fascinating listening for Broadway aficionados and an essential deep dive for HAMILTON fans” and says that “Mariska Hargitay takes on the role of warm documentarian.” Of the footnotes read by Miranda, they write “it’s SO much fun hearing them lift off the page, by turns serious and playful.”

Audiobooks are enjoying a surge in popularity, making the Audies (both winners and nominated titles) a great resource for RA librarians looking for a guide to the best narrators and seeking sure bet suggestions. The lists can also be mined for popular and easy displays. There are plenty of titles to choose from as awards are given out in over two dozen categories.

The full list of winners is online. The ceremony is on YouTube (the video begins at 12:26):

Nancy Pearl on NPR

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Librarian Nancy Pearl appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition today to offer six “under-the-radar” reading suggestions.

9780156030533She recommends one of her “all-time favorite novels,” Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie (HMH/Mariner Books; OverDrive Sample, 2005), a story of mothers and daughters and of political persecution in Pakistan, adding “More people need to read this remarkable Pakistani author,” who lives in England, and has written six novels and one book of nonfiction.

9781616954161_f4844Pearl also suggests the first in a spy series that she says gets better with each book in the run: Slow Horses, Mick Herron (PRH/Soho Crime; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample), saying she loves the characters and that “It’s just great fun.”

She also mentions two titles which are recent discoveries:







Revolver, Duane Swierczynski (Hachette/Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample) –“This is the first novel I’ve read by [him] and as soon as I finished it I went back and read three more.”

A Twist of the Knife, Becky Masterman (Macmillan/ Minotaur) — This one is set to be published in March. “The main character is a woman named Brigid Quinn, who is a former FBI agent now retired. Brigid is 60. I love that. When have we last seen the hero of a thriller age 60?”

The final two suggestions, not included in the on air discussion, are:

9781632864307_2caf89780544705166_b3559Please Do Not Disturb, Robert Glancy Bloomsbury USA (Macmillan/ Bloomsbury USA; OverDrive Sample)

The Turner House, Angela Flournoy (HMH/Mariner Books; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Loan Stars Make The News

Sunday, January 8th, 2017


Congratulations to the Canadian Library Association’s readers advisory program, Loan Stars for gaining recognition from Toronto’s newspaper The Star this week. 

Noting that the program was inspired by LibraryReads in the US, the story credits Loan Stars with helping to highlight new and upcoming authors.

It’s also had an impact on library staff.  Margaret Elwood of Toronto’s Fairview branch says it has encouraged her to read and recommend ARCs and eGalleys, “Before the Loan Stars program came along I knew that I had access to pre-pub books, but I never took advantage of it … I think it’s really raised the awareness to library staff that it’s something you can do and it’s really easy to do, and maybe you should do it.”

LitHub’s Book Review Aggregator

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016


Lit Hub, the website created in 2015 by Grove Atlantic publisher Morgan Entrekin and two partners to bring together “smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books,” has just re-launched their Book Marks section (not to be confused with the magazine Book Marks, which is still in print, but no longer updating its online book review aggregator).

When it debuted six months ago, Book Marks was tagged the “publishing equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes,” compiling reviews from over 70 consumer sources and assigning a letter grade to any book that got reviewed three times or more.

After taking criticism for the letter grades, the site has switched to a four-tiered system that characterizes reviews as Rave, Positive, Mixed, or Pan, explaining that the letters “did not convey the nuance of the reviews, and a book with a dozen middling reviews could wind up with the same grade as a book with ten raves and two pans. The grades also appeared to be a subjective assessment by Literary Hub, rather than cumulative measure of reviewer opinion.”

As Rotten Tomatoes itself demonstrates, assigning values is not a science and the Book Mark‘s new system still has some problems. For instance, Zadie Smith’s Swing Time is ranked as positive with 41 reviews, a mix of rave, positive and mixed reviews as well as single pan (for the curious, that one comes from The Millions and some might consider it more mixed than a pan). On the other hand, Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe is ranked as a rave with only 3 reviews, two raves and one positive.

Nevertheless, Book Marks is useful for many things, such as staying up to speed on titles getting review coverage, through its sections on new books, the most talked about books, the best reviewed books, the most reviewed books, and breakdowns by category (nine for fiction, 19 nonfiction).

It is also a quick way to learn more about specific titles, through review excerpts (found by clicking on each book cover) and links to the full reviews. 

We have added Book Marks to our links at the right of the site, under “Consumer Media, Book Coverage.” 

SF and Fantasy for October

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Looking for October titles to please genre fans? io9 surveys the Science Fiction and Fantasy field and highlights 21 titles coming out this month to suggest to readers and include in displays.

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Among them is Alex Award-winner Wesley Chu’s new stand-alone title, The Rise of Io (PRH/Angry Robot; OverDrive Sample), described as what happens when an “intergalactic small-time crook” is overtaken by a “body-swapping alien” who is conducting a murder investigation.

Shakespeare is rarely classed as SF or Fantasy, but Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed  (PRH/Hogarth; RH Audio/BOT), is also on the list, described as her “fresh take” on The Tempest.  It is just one of many Atwood upcoming projects, including her debut graphic novel. She is also consulting on Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale,starring Joseph Fiennes and Elisabeth Moss, which begins shooting in Toronto this fall.

Based on the cult hit TV series, The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (Macmillan/Flatiron Books; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) offers “a deeper examination of the tiny town’s history and its many deep and troubling mysteries.” New attention will also be brought to series in the form of a revival, to air in 2017.

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Crosstalk by Connie Willis (PRH/Del Rey; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) blends genres. A LibraryReads pick for this month, it is described it as “he perfect romantic comedy for the digital age,” Also on the list is Ken Liu’s The Wall of Storms (S&S/Saga; S&S Audio), the sequel to the highly regarded Grace of Kings. It has also received high praise in a review on the NPR site this week, saying that “It surpasses The Grace of Kings in every way, by every conceivable metric, and is — astonishingly — perfectly readable as a standalone.”

N.K. Jemisin, Book Reviewer

Friday, August 26th, 2016

9780316229296_62f5aThe author of the Hugo winning The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin, has been in the news lately for her take on the current state of publishing and her reaction to winning “the Oscars” of her genre, but since last December she has also been sharing her views on Science Fiction and Fantasy in the NYT book review column “Otherwordly,” a bi-monthly roundup.

While the paper often assigns high profile authors to review high profile titles in the Sunday Book Review (Michael Connelly just reviewed Caleb Carr’s newest for example), Jemisin’s role is a bit different as she gets space to comment on a range of books within her genre specialty.

What kind of reviewer is she? A very precise, demanding, and appreciative one; a critic writing with vibrant engagement who is not willing to let much slide. What kind of reader is she? Based on her reactions to the works covered thus far, one that is interested in meaningful content rather than plot, values beautiful language, and appreciates in-depth characterizations.

For example, in her opening column she tries to figure out what China Miéville’s This Census-Taker (PRH/Del Rey) is all about, jumping from one possibility to the next before concluding, “This is a novel in which the journey is the story — but for those readers who actually want Miéville to take them somewhere, This Census-Taker may be an exercise in haunting, lovely frustration.”

Similarly, of Keith Lee Morris’s Travelers Rest (Hachette/Back Bay) she says the story is “not fresh” and thought “It’s beautifully written … Beautiful writing just isn’t enough to save any story from overfamiliarity.”

When a work does capture her fully, she gives it a rare “highly recommended” vote, as she has done for Andrea Hairston’s Will Do Magic for Small Change (Aqueduct Press), calling it a “beautifully multifaceted story … with deep, layered, powerful characters.”

All The Birds In The Sky (Macmillan/Tor/Tom Doherty), Charlie Jane Anders also impresses. She says it is “complex, and scary, and madcap … as hopeful as it is hilarious, and highly recommended.”

Below are links to her columns thus far:

December 28, 2015
February 23, 2016
April 19, 2016
June 17, 2016

Authors As Readers Advisors

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 is turning famous authors into readers’ advisors, giving them a platform to suggest titles well worth seeking out in “15 Women Writers Discuss Their Favorite Overlooked Books.”

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Elena Ferrante suggests fellow Italian writer, Elsa Morante, particularly her novel History (translated by William Weaver (Steerforth; OverDrive Sample; Feb. 2000) of which she says “One reads with one’s heart in one’s throat.”

Emily St. John Mandel offers J.M. Ledgard’s novel Submergence (Consortium/Coffee House; OverDrive Sample; Mar. 2013) saying it is a “masterpiece” that “both sings with tension and radiates immense humanity and tenderness.”

Ann Patchett, who, as a bookseller as well as author and, has experience advising readers, suggests Geoffrey Wolff’s “brilliant essay collection and memoir,” A Day at the Beach (PRH/Vintage; OverDrive Sample; Nov. 2013). She says it “offers up tales of daring along with expansive thinking, the bright light of humor, and the dark night of the soul, and delivers it all in writing sharp enough to cut your fingers on.”

Ann Beattie, Amy Bloom, Roxane Gay, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jamaica Kincaid, Miranda July, Lorrie Moore, Mary Roach, Karen Russell, Rebecca Stead, Meg Wolitzer, and Jacqueline Woodson, round out the authors making suggestions.

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On the site as well is “The 17 Best Books to Pick Up This August.” The list includes the buzzy Siracusa by Delia Ephron (PRH/Blue Rider Press; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) as well as The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn (Macmillan/Thomas Dunne; OverDrive Sample) and Champion of the World  by Chad Dundas (PRH/G.P. Putnam; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Talking Horror

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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The WSJ Speak Easy podcasts take a look at pop culture, particularly TV and movies, but the latest is devoted to horror fiction, a half hour conversation that offers a way in to the genre for anyone who is not already a fan.

Featured are author Paul Tremblay, winner of last year’s Bram Stoker Award and whose new book Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample) has garnered admiration. Joining him are Laird Barron, Man With No Name (JournalStone; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom (Macmillan/Tor; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample).

Each discusses how they translate their own fears into their writing as well as the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and growing awareness of his racist views.

LaValle re-worked a Lovecraft story as The Ballad of Black Tom, taking Lovecraft’s idea that the most horrific idea is a universe that doesn’t care about your existence and turning it instead to a universe set against you, intent on wiping you out. He says that Lovecraft’s prejudices “limited his understanding of the breadth and depth of his own concept.”

They close by listing what scares them most, various visions of the future.


Readers’ Advisory: Killer Women

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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The currently hyper-popular psychological suspense genre is examined in depth by film critic Terrence Rafferty in the new issue of The Atlantic, declaring in the headline, “Women Are Writing the Best Crime Novels,”  

Among upcoming titles, Rafferty is particularly keen on The Darkest Secret, Alex Marwood (PRH/Penguin, Aug. 30) and You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott (Hachette/Little, Brown, July 26), calling the first “brilliant” and the second “superb.”

The genre was created by women authors, amply proved he says by the Library of America’s two-volume collection, Women Crime Writers (2015) and it now has “many more daughters than sons,” running down a global roster:

America — Megan Abbott, Alison Gaylin, Laura Lippman

England — Alex Marwood, Paula Hawkins, Sophie Hannah

Scotland — Val McDermid, Denise Mina

Ireland — Tana French

Norway — Karin Fossum

Japan — Natsuo Kirino

These authors have ushered in a new order, that, says Rafferty, “is not a world Raymond Chandler would have recognized … The female writers, for whatever reason (men?), don’t much believe in heroes, which makes their kind of storytelling perhaps a better fit for these cynical times. Their books are light on gunplay, heavy on emotional violence … pure noir, velvety and pitiless.”

Readers’ Advisory: Comics

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday offers a capsule overview of the state of comics, interviewing George Gene Gustines, of the NYT‘s Arts Beat blog, about the format’s allure, both for readers and for authors.

The brief interview gives insight into the value of all the mixes, mash-ups, alliances, and re-issues for readers and the big-name authors being drawn to the format.

Gustine delineates the current audience for comics, pointing out that all age groups are fans but the sweet spot right now are readers in their 40s who grew up on comics and have followed every significant character evolution and story line. He says that publishers are trying to appeal to kids again with a lot of new material to ensure the format does not age out.

STL001673Gustines also discusses the trend for prose authors to move to comics. As we reported, Ta-Nehisi Coates is topping the charts with his new version of Black Panther (the graphic novel compiling issues #1-4 is forthcoming: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Hachette/Marvel; Sept. 27, 2016; ISBN: 9781302900533; $16.99).

9781401263133_63839Brad Meltzer (bestselling author of thrillers such as The Tenth Justice) had a highly successful turn as well says Gustines, creating a run of the Justice League of America and the comic series Identity Crisis that Gustines says “sold like gangbusters.”

Another thriller author, Greg Rucka, has written dozens of comics for both DC and Marvel including work on Batman and Spider-Man and Michael Chabon created stories for the Casanova comic with Matt Fraction, the Eisner and Harvey award-winning author of such popular series as Sex Criminals and Hawkeye.

9781506700632_97656Due in September is, Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird (PRH/Dark Horse; Sept. 6, 2016; ISBN: 9781506700632; $14.99), the first in an  . The Guardian quotes Atwood, “I have concocted a superhero who is part cat, part bird. Due to some spilled genetic Super-Splicer, our hero got tangled up with both a cat and an owl; hence his fur and feathers, and his identity problems.”

Dark Horse acquiring editor said it will be “a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired story … [with] …a lot of cat puns …. a strange mix of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s Animal Man, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Squirrel Girl.”

All this, of course, on top of what is also a busy market of adapting print only books into comics, such as Paul Auster’s City of Glass, Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels, and both Game of Thrones and Outlander.

Nancy Pearl’s New Year’s Pick

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

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Looking for a book for the New Year, something a bit different that crosses a number of popular genres? In her most recent KUOW radio appearance, librarian Nancy Pearl offers a suggestion, the 2014 genre-blending City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample).

Saying it’s exciting to discover an author she has never read before, especially one with a backlist to explore, Nancy discusses the first in Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy (the second, City of Blades, PRH/Broadway; OverDrive Sample will be published on Jan. 26), a cross between mystery, fantasy, and SF about a land once ruled by incarnate gods and a young spy sent on a mission to catch a murderer.

The beginning is a bit odd, she says but the story and the world-building quickly caught her attention and drew her in.

She is not alone in that assessment.

NPR’s reviewer says he put the book down three times but,

“I also came back, drawn by something about City of Stairs, even in those interminable opening pages … It was the shine of a wholly and fully realized world. The hard gleam of competence coming from a writer who knows what he’s doing, where he’s going and just exactly how to get there … Bennett is plainly a writer in love with the world he has built — and with good cause. It’s a great world, original and unique, with a scent and a texture, a sense of deep, bloody history, and a naturally blended magic living in the stones.”

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.