Archive for the ‘Reading Trends’ Category

The Non-Reader President-Elect

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

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In a column focused on the importance of reading Salon warns not to expect Summer Reading lists from Donald Trump.

Unlike President Obama who regularly posted what he was reading, Trump is unlikely to spend any time doing so. In a summer interview with The Washington Post he said that he has never been a big reader, “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

This is despite, as the Post points out, having multiple author credits himself, working with ghost writers, and publishing more than a dozen books, most of which are autobiographical and having claimed in those books to be a reader, offering suggestion to other of a number of titles.

Trump follows one of the most avid defenders of reading and the written word as Salon comments. President Obama, as well as the first lady have “been staunch advocates of the literary arts, opening the White House to poetry jams and student readings and supporting independent bookstores like Washington’s Politics and Prose.”

Salon outlines how reading has helped past presidents, perhaps most famously the lessons John F. Kennedy learned from Barbara Tuchman’s best seller The Guns of August, which influenced his decision-making during the Cuban missile crisis.

The expressed lack of interest in reading is not just a matter of personal choice concludes Salon. Trump’s “disavowal of reading telegraphs to our children and society that books — and the people who write them — are not to be valued. It undermines the young artists who need to know that their craft matters and the teachers attempting to instill a respect for reading in their students. In short, it sends the message that acquiring knowledge through slow, deliberate study is unnecessary.”

Reese Witherspoon, Readers Advisor

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Reese Witherspoon is using her literary clout to promote books.

Her most recent recommendation is Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, Kelly Williams Brown (Hachette/Grand Central Publishing), a humorous self-help book aimed at readers in their 20s finding the transition to adult responsibilities a bit trying (born from a blog of the same name).

It is starting to gain traction at some libraries we checked but it catapulted up the Amazon rankings last week (from #5,722 to #15) based on the following Instagram post:

It is just the latest evidence of Witherspoon’s book savvy and sales impact. As WSJ noted earlier this year, she is the force behind many adaptions, including Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, having optioned both titles before they were published. WSJ says “just five months after [her production] company was launched, the books hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list at the same time—in the nonfiction and fiction categories, respectively. Together, the films earned three Oscar nominations and grossed more than half a billion dollars.”

Witherspoon follows Goodreads, reads one to two books a week, runs an Instagram bookclub (#rwbookclub), and options books for her production company, Pacific Standard. All this, says WSJ, has positioned her “as one of Hollywood’s most influential literary tastemakers in the book-to-screen business.”

She is also a force in the book recommendation business. In Style says “when she gives a title her stamp of approval, it carries a helluva lot of weight” and WSJ adds her suggestions “send Amazon rankings soaring.”

After a bookclub post about Luckiest Girl Alive, it jumped from #70 to #7. Marysue Rucci, editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster tells the WSJ that “The difference between what [Luckiest Girl Alive] might have done without Reese is just like the lightbulb to the sun.”

People magazine recently ran a profile of Witherspoon, asking if she is “Hollywood’s biggest book mogul?” The article lists many other titles Witherspoon has recommend, including Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein, and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, continuing “Many of the stories feature edgy, smart, imperfect women.”

Witherspoon told WSJ that is no accident, “I’m on the crusade to find a dynamic, female character, whether she’s likable or not … Likable puts women in a very small box.”

It’s Official: Literary “New York Problems” Is a Trend

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

modern-lovers  The Nest  Fates and Furies

If you’ve heard readers object that they don’t want to read yet another book about the problems of well-off New Yorkers, the Guardian verifies that it’s indeed a trend.

In a new twist, many of these NYC-centric novels are set in the recently trendy borough of Brooklyn. Tellingly, Emma Straub, the author of the Modern Lovers, (PRH/Riverhead), which just debuted at #14 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list, recently told that paper that she set her book in the Ditmas Park section of Brooklyn, because she “wanted to stay as far away from the quote-unquote Brooklyn book as I could,” a fine distinction to those who are’t familiar with the differences of Brooklyn real estate.

The titles cited buy the Guardian as examples represent a range of genres, from Plum Sykes frothy Bergdorf Blondes (2004) to the multiple literary award nominee Hanya Yanagihara’s  A Little Life (2015).

Grim Reader

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Based on recent best seller lists, people love to read about death.


NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday examines the trend, prompted by a recent article in The Guardian which, based on the popularity of Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, (PRH/Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample), offers two explanations: the books present examples of ways to face the inevitable and the seemingly sad subject holds a measure of optimism, because the act of writing a memoir grants a measure of immortality.

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The interview highlights a couple of well-known examples, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (Hachette/Hyperion, 2008) and Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom (PRH/Doubleday/Broadway, 2002).

9780805095159_a145b9780451492937_0cfcbThere are plenty of newer examples too, including Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (Macmillan/Holt; 2014), which has been on the NYT hardback nonfiction bestseller list for over a year and Gratitude by Oliver Sacks (PRH/Knopf, 2015), now in its fifth week on that same list.

Top Eisner

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Analyzng the Eisner Awards, announced earlier this month at Comic-Con, the  LA Times views them as reflecting a “creative swell in children’s comics,” with several titles winning in categories not defined by age.

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Caldecott honoree This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (Macmillan/First Second; OverDrive Sample) won for best New Graphic Album (essentially the best graphic novel of the year) and Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Watters (S&S/BOOM! Box; OverDrive Sample) won the Best New Series award while Raina Telgemeier’s middle-grade Sisters (Scholastic, a companion to her previous title, Smile) won in the Writer/Artist category. views the awards as making a leap beyond superheroes, noting that the Best Writer Awards have traditionally gone to “an author producing pamphlet comics—serial, monthly works—rather than graphic novels.” This year breaks precedence with the award going to The Shadow Hero (Macmillan/First Second) by Gene Luen Yang “a writer who has made his name in the graphic novel industry, where he wrote and illustrated the first ever graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award [Boxers and Saints]—and the first ever graphic novel to win the Printz Award [American Born Chinese].” They also note the number of women writers winning awards this year, with titles addressing subjects never before covered in graphic novels indicates that “the depth and breadth of what comics are—and can become—are reaching ever new heights.” This change was noted earlier this year by the Wall Street Journal.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.54.12 AMThe award for the best nonfiction graphic work went to Hip Hop Family Tree, vol. 2, by Ed Piskor (Norton/Fantagraphics).Volume one was published in 2013; volume three is coming in August.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 11.56.31 AMEmily Carroll’s Through the Woods (S&S/Margaret K. McElderry) won for Best Graphic Album-Reprint, giving those who do not yet own this beautifully creepy work all the more reason to buy it. Carroll also won the Eisner for Best Short Story.

The New Age of Storytelling

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

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After the breakout success of Serial, the “audio media space” industry (a mix of radio and podcast producers as The Hollywood Reporter describes it) is scrambling to satisfy a newly discovered audience for long form narrative storytelling.

Serial and Invisibilia, both hot properties on NPR (Invisibilia created a best seller of the book it’s based on), are examples of the new direction towards multi-part, lengthy, story-based nonfiction segments that hook listeners and supply them with episodic fixes similar to The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.

Second seasons of both shows are in the works but producers admit that finding follow-up topics is a challenge, “It’s uncharted territory. Invisibilia and Serial broke into new audiences and opened up the space a bit, but we’re making it up as we go.”

The shifting audio landscape may be a new challenge for producers, but many librarians have already figured out how to take advantage of the trend.

As we reported earlier, librarians have supported Serial with booklists. Others offer podcasts of library programs, such as those from the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the Seattle Public Library, Libraries are also partnering with programs such as StoryCorps to help archive and build story collections.

The DC Public Library even offers their own class on how to create audio stories and posts student’s projects on SoundCloud.

The new attention to podcasts is an opportunity for storytelling librarians to reach out in new ways and for readers’ advisory and collection development librarians to expand their services. Let us know in the comments section what your library is doing.

Chick Noir

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Examining “Why We Can’t Get Enough of Twisted Marriage Thrillers,” in the Daily Beast, regular contributor Lucy Scholes looks at the spate of recent “psychological page-turners that subvert the ‘happily ever after’ formula of classic chic lit.”

9781250018199Following in the footsteps of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, A.S.A Harrison’s The Silent Wife, S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, and “the less well known but equally creepy How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman,” (Macmillan/St. Martin’s; Thorndike) are some new titles (Entertainment Weekly also looks at recent titles in the genre this week).


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Scholes considers Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse, (Bloomsbury USA), published last month, as “truly formulaic in every sense of the word, but it’s an easy read and will go some way in filling the Gone Girl shaped hole in Flynn fans’ lives,” (it got a B from Entertainment Weekly).

The one Scholes calls a “significantly superior addition to the genre” arrives next month, Jean Hanff Korelitz’s You Should Have Known, (Hachette/GrandCentral; Hachette Audio, March 18), the author’s next novel after the successful Admission (made into a less successful movie starring Tina Fey). Entertainment Weekly also adds their voice to this one, in their list of “14 Reads That Are Worth the Wait” calling it, ‘The thriller we’re already obsessed with.” LJ did not give it similar cred, saying “the suspense is marred by the overwritten prose” but PW calls it an “intriguing and beautiful book.”

Scholes also suggests keeping an eye out for a summer publication, Natalie Young’s Season to Taste, (Hachette/Little, Brown, 7/15). The American edition does not included the U.K. subtitle, … or How to Eat Your Husband, which gives fair warning that it is not “for the faint hearted or the weak stomached…” It hasn’t been reviewed by the prepub sources yet, so libraries we checked have not ordered it.

Top 100 O.P. Titles

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Sex MadonnaBook Finder has released a list of the top 100 out-of-print titles.

At #1 is a title that will bring back memories for those who were working in libraries in the early ’90’s — Madonna’s Sex. If you still own copies (WorldCat shows 179 libraries own the original Warner Books edition), you may want to safe guard them so they don’t walk.

The list shows a wide range. At #4 is the Harvard Classics. and at #5, On the Nature and Existence of God, by Richard M. Gale.

Best Sellers of 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Slate explores the cultural implications from Amazon’s list of the year’s best sellers (still being updated as we near the actual end of the year, so the positions fluctuate a bit). In the top ten, The Great Gatsby, shows that “We’ll tolerate the occasional work of actual literature as long as it’s super-short and there’s a movie.”

Are our British cousins any more high brow? Not according to the list from Nielson’s Book Scan (published in the Guardian), where not a single classic appears in the top 100, movie-related or not.

Their list is as influence by popular culture as ours. At #1 is My Autobiography by Alex Ferguson (he’s “the most important football man of the past 25 years,” according to the Guardian‘s own, not particularly admiring, review). The rest of the list is dotted with tv and movie tie-ins.

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It seems the Brits are even more obsessed with their weight than we are. The Fast Diet is at #4 on their list, but  only comes in at #70 on ours. And, shudder, at #8, there is a book called The Hairy Dieters by some guys formerly known as “The Hairy Bikers,” who seem to have gone through a Paula Deen-like conversion (minus the racial slurs) from a less-than-healthy lifestyle exemplified by their previous titles like The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies (hope they wear hair nets).

Gangsta GrannyMany other titles are recognizable; Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which made its appearance in the UK in January, comes in at #3. Others, not so much; there’s British comedian/author David Walliams, who has 5 children’s titles on the list, including Gangsta Granny, adapted into a Christmas BBC TV special this year, but not yet available here. (The Guardian offers a deeper dive into the list).

Hope you enjoy making your own cultural comparisons.

Nancy Pearl, RA Guru

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

When Nancy Pearl talks books, buyers listen. On NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday, she presented four of her “Under the Radar” picks (the full list of seven, along with a link to the audio, are on the NPR site). Two of the titles received dramatic bumps  on Amazon’s sales rankings.

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation, David Goldfield, (Macmillan/Bloomsbury). Rose to #189 from #102,066)

Nancy says this book that claims the Civil War could have been avoided, made her “look back and reassess my knowledge and beliefs” about the war and its aftermath.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein, (Hyperion). Rose to #216 from #5,238)

This one is not “below the radar” among YA readers. It’s on both the Publishers Weekly and Amazon’s Best Books lists. However, it may be lesser known to adults, who, as Nancy says, will also enjoy this “story of deep friendship, incredible bravery and the difficult choices that life sometimes forces on us.”

Reading Preferences of Democrats vs. Republicans

Monday, October 8th, 2012

GoodReads proves once again that reading stats can be fun (click on the image, or here, to find out which side is more likely to  be a fan of Atlas Shrugged).


Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

We’d sworn off writing about Fifty Shades of Grey, but damn USA Today‘s book editor, Dierdre Donahue who writes a smart piece about the “10 reasons Fifty Shades of Grey has shackled readers,” beginning with the observation that, “Despite its scarlet reputation, the series is an old-fashioned love story with some odd sex toys, riding crops and mild bondage tossed in.”

We’re hoping this will be the final word. We’re growing tired of those covers.

And, since it may be (no promises), we’ll make it a twofer, by pointing out that Goodreads has created an infographic of where Fifty Shades readers live, indicating that it is an East Coast phenomenon (click here for full graphic, with analysis).

Oprah Hurt Book Sales?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

It seems unlikely, but the AP reports that a new study says Oprah’s endorsements suppressed the sales of books overall. Because “the books Oprah chose were longer and more challenging,” people ended up spending time with one book, when they might have been reading two or three less difficult books.

Surrender The Grey

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

The media went on red-alert last week about an erotic fiction trilogy.The New York Post reported on Tuesday that Fifty Shades of Grey by first-time British author E.L. James “has NYC moms reading like never before.” Apparently, they are also talking nonstop to each other about what they are reading. So much sharing is going on that one woman called it “the new kabbalah for female bonding in this city.”

Canada’s Globe and Mail gives the publishing background,

Through an independent publisher in Australia [The Writer’s Coffee Shop is based in New South Wales, Australia; the company’s US address is in Waxahachie,Tex] the trilogy has sold more than 100,000 copies, the bulk of them e-books…First time-author E.L. James, a television executive living in London, honed her erotica chops penning BDSM-themed Twilight fan fiction. She has said that the bondage opus was her “midlife crisis.”

The story was picked up by several other news sources, culminating on the Today Show on Friday.

WorldCat indicates that a handful of libraries own or have ordered the print version of the book. Most are showing a modest number of holds. The first title in the series hit the NYT best seller list in ebook format last week (#24, rising to #23 this week).

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Swedish Noir Scorecard

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Holy Appeal Factors; USA Today offers a rundown of new and forthcoming books to read if your interest in Nordic noir has been “stoked by Stieg.” (Click on titles above for full biblio. info.)

Each annotation includes the “Stieg factor,” such as this one for Hennig Mankell’s latest (and final) in his Kurt Wallander series, The Troubled Man, “The brooding Wallander makes Salander’s black moods feel like a sunny day in Miami.”

In a companion story, Dierdre Donahue looks at this spring’s Scandinavian invasion of authors on book tour in the US.