Sitting in the Bonner Spring’s Library meeting room listening to Kaite Stover’s RA workshop with a dozen NEKLS librarians.
Determining a book’s appeal – what makes a book great?
(Taken from Reader’s Advisory Service in Public Library by Joyce G. Saricks and Nancy Brown, compiled by Kaite Mediatore Stover)
- Pacing – the speed of the book. The shorter the sentences, paragraphs and chapters, the faster the pace. Look for dialogue v. description.
- Characterization – Describes the type of characters. Look for the length of time a character is developed – on the flyleaf, within the first chapter, during the course of the book, or over several books. Does the book focus on one or multiple characters?
- Story Line – Does the story emphasize people or situations/events? Is the focus interior/psychological or exterior/action? What is the author’s intent? Serious or light? comedy or drama?
- Frame – Is the background detailed or minimal? Example, with Mary Higgins Clark, the frame is not so important. Horror and Romance are all about frame, as is science fiction/fantasy – also called ‘world building.’ How does the book make a reader feel? What is the book’s mood? Is a special background integral to the story? Book solely about frame: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Savannah is the important part of the book, more so than the characters or plot.
- Other – “A picture is worth a thousand words” – carefully look at the cover. Jacket blurb, artwork and typeface, assess the title and look at the physical dimensions of the book. Big books are heavy! Some authors have a brand – you can tell their book by their covers and/or spines (example, Jodi Picoult).
- Blockbusters are hard to match, because they do well in all of these profiles. For example, Da Vinci Code and Prince of Tides – hard to find read-alikes. Talk to the reader to find out what part of this book they liked – the characters? the pacing? the story? the frame?
Using the Praise blurbs on the back to help with Reader’s Advisory – Many times the blurbs from other authors are potential read-alikes – This is how I discovered Julia Quinn!
Oh and I got a piece of chocolate for having a book on my iPhone (Eloisa James’ A Duke of Her Own)
How to read a book in 15 minutes! (these are all handouts, this one by Jane Hirsch and Lisa Sampley):
Mine: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
- Cover – Dark, mix of nature with the web and lightning with a city scape
- Jacket blurb – ‘mythology for a modern age’ ‘Fat Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad. He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god.’ ‘Returning to territory explored in American Gods…startling, terrifying, exhilarating, and fiercely funny.’ – Author blurb on back by Christopher Moore ‘fun read that leaves one with a proper respect for the eternal forces of irony and silliness.’
- Typeface – Medium sized, crisp, easy to read with plenty of white space
- Heft – 334 pages, not too fat, not too thin.
- Read some of the first chapter – The chapters all have subtitles – “chapter 1 which is mostly about names and family relationships’. Funny, good start.
- Evaluate the following:
- Genre/type – fantasy
- Pace – fast, very short quick sentences
- Clarity – Very good transitions
- What is the format? – Seems to be straight first person narrative
- Relate to other books – continuation of the world from American Gods
- What kind of reader? I think there might be teens drawn to this after learning about Gaiman from YA like Coraline and his graphic novels.
One person here got lucky and had a Reader’s Guide in the back of the book! Double Bind, I think. I haven’t heard a title I want to read aside from the one I picked up – I like Gaiman and just recently listened to The Graveyard Book.
It’s just as important to know why a reader did NOT like a book, as why they DID like a book. Pinpoint the negatives and find a book with the opposite appeal elements.
Resources for RA
Heather will be buying all of the print Resources that Kaite is sharing with us….including:
- Great Books for Every Book Lover by Thomas Craughwell (over 2,002 reading suggestions and booklists – out of print, but you can buy it on Amazon).
- The Read On series…by Libraries Unlimited, including Read On…Fantasy Fiction by Neil Hollands. Reading lists by genre – crime, historical, women’s fiction and horror ($45 per book).
- 500 Essential Graphic Novels by Gene Kannenberg. – NEED TO GET KCPL doesn’t own it! Shocking.
- 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – paperback, heavy but useful. Full of classics and popular titles. Good synopsis info and bios and cover art for book clubs.
- Read ’em Their Writes: A Handbook for Mystery and Crime Fiction Book Discussion by Gary Warren Niebuhr – good ‘handbook’ for book groups that only want to read mysteries. Best: Mystic River.
- What to Read: The Essential Guide for Reading Group Members and Other book Lovers by Mickey Pearlman.
- The Reading List: Contemporary Fiction: A Critical Guide to the Complete Works of 110 Authors by David Rubel.
- Book Lust by Nancy Pearl.
- A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jame Freimiller.
- Reading Group Choices: Selections for Lively Book Discussions
NoveList – Your Guide to Fiction powered by EBSCOhost – that is oh, so easy to get to via the NExpress online Catalog:
NoveList will be remodeled this spring, prior to ALA in June.
Readers’ Advisory Interview – it’s a conversation, you will be suggesting rather than recommending and encourage returns to gauge RA success!
Remember: Book appeals, book groupings – keep a list of what you read (Good Reads), Consult Amazon or NoveList or ask the Fiction-l email list. Look for established reviewers on Amazon or the the reviews with a grain of salt.
- Check the new book shelf regularly
- Check Fiction displays if available -what’s moving and what’s still there
- Check current Best Seller lists – NY Times Fiction and Non-fiction
- Check Amazon‘s front page
- Readers’ Advisory is NOT like Reference – you don’t need to know why they want to read a book!
- Author’s you don’t know or like (keep your opinions to yourself – no judgments)
- Genres you don’t know or like (go find someone who is familiar with a genre you are not)
- Drawing a blank (walk to the fiction section and be inspired by the books themselves!)
You’re ready, where’s the reader?
- Most are afraid to ask for help – RA is NOT a waste of our valuable time…do some wandering and ask, “Are you finding what you are looking for?”
- Travel the fiction stacks when you have time or keep an eye on it
- Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions.
- Don’t ask “What do you like to read?”
Questions that will help:
- Tell me about a book you enjoyed…
- Do you have an author you never miss?
- Have you read anything you disliked lately?
- Do you like a book with a fast plot or strong characters?
- What kind of book are you in the mood for?
- Be approachable – smile!
- Get reader preferences and paraphrase
- Remember the goal is frequency and quality – how often the same patrons keep coming back for the same service.