Book clubs are the bomb. Did you know they can also be educational? Since March of last year, a rotating group of library staff has been meeting every few weeks to discuss a different fiction genre or category of non-fiction. So far, we’ve covered Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Thrillers, Westerns, Short Stories, Graphic Novels, Biographies, and the 600s and 700s in the Dewey Decimal Classification, which includes popular topics such as cooking, gardening, health, sports, and art. We even read from a list of the top 100 books circulated in our district in 2016.
So what does all this exploring do, exactly? First, I have to point out that it can be intimidating when someone asks you to find a good book in a genre you’re not familiar with! By getting us to read outside of our comfort zones, library staff gains a greater knowledge of different kinds of books, and by extension, different kinds of readers, to better help our patrons when you ask us for reading suggestions. Most people innocently call this “asking a question,” but in library-land, we call this Readers’ Advisory. However, since even the most widely-read person won’t know *every* book and author, any increase in familiarity can turn a panic-inducing question into a welcome challenge. Of course, since we can’t read everything, we also rely on a variety of tools to help us help you -- and all of them are accessible via the Digital Library or available free online.
In no particular order, here are my three favorites:
NoveList Plus provides reams of professionally curated booklists and read-alikes for fiction and narrative nonfiction, as well as reviews and a variety of other tools to help you find your next great read. If you haven’t played with this database before, log in with your library card via the Digital Library, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Fantastic Fiction is “an online catalog of authors and books for those of us who love to read fiction.” It’s centered more around authors than books, so you can browse your favorites and get great read-alike suggestions. It’s also the best place I’ve found to see the order of books in series as well as alternate titles.
Goodreads describes itself as “the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations.” The social design of this site lets you connect directly with your friends and favorite authors and set up your own account to track books you’ve read and want to read, post reviews, create and share booklists, and much more.
FIND YOUR NEXT BOOK!
So the next time you find yourself at an impasse trying to decide what to read, check out one of these sites, or better yet, check in with one of your local librarians! We might not know the answer off the top of our heads, but we will do our best to help -- and our best will only get better with practice!
Vanessa, Collect Development Librarian