Q: Sadly, there are only a few weeks left in the summer, but they can be good weeks—lots of vacation and beach time to come. So, on the subject of the seasons, a few questions for you. Do you find seasonal marketing works for books—do people read more during winter, for example, or read certain types of “beach read” books in the summer? Can you recommend any strategies for seasonal marketing? And, before summer is out, do you have any recommendations for vacation reading?
A: Although I don’t think that my personal reading changes with the seasons—for me, what I read when seems to depend much more on my mood—I do understand the concept of “summer reading.” I think that when we talk about “summer reading” or ”beach reads,” it’s code for books that are story-driven. Reviewers (and readers) describe these story-driven works as being page-turners, fast-paced, heart-stopping (or –pounding), adrenaline-fueled, high octane, or nonstop action. When I’m reading a review and come across one of those descriptors, I mentally assign that book to my to-be-read-during-those-times-when-I-don’t-want-to-have-to-concentrate-too-much-because-there’s-a-lot-going-on-in-my-life list of to-reads. Others will see it as a potential beach or airplane read. But we’re talking about the same books. My feeling is that these sorts of books more or less sell themselves, but I do like the idea of pulling together a collection of diverse titles—both fiction and nonfiction—calling it something like “Dive Into a Good Book,” or “Have I Got a Story for You!” and watching the books fly off the shelves into the hands of customers who are looking for a recommendation but not necessarily eager to ask a bookseller or librarian for help. And I’d definitely include both new and older titles. So, that being said, have I got a story for you! Here are some late summer recommendations to pack in your beach bag or download on your e-reader: If you’re a fan of Lee Child’s thrillers, take a look at Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty series. Hallinan just gets better and better with each novel, and the newest, The Fear Artist (Soho Crime), is superb. But you really should read them all. Check out Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon (Del Rey), a science fiction novel for which the phrase “adrenaline-powered read” seems inadequate. Wendy Holden’s Marrying Up: A Right Royal Romantic Comedy (Sourcebooks Landmark) is perfect for Sophie Kinsella and Tilly Bagshawe fans. Stephen Carter’s The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (Knopf) is an alt-history novel that both entertains and painlessly informs. Kate Moses’ Cakewalk (Dial Press) and Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Broadway), are two memoirs that won’t throw you into despair. And finally, check out any of S.J. Bolton’s thrillers. My favorite is Awakening but the most visceral is Now You See Me (both Minotaur).
Q: Do you think that social media—Facebook, Twitter, et al.—can be used successfully for readers’ advisory for the growing number of virtual library users , or is it more of an outreach tool? Do you have a sense of whether those virtual users have different readers’ advisory needs? Or do they rely on sources like Good Reads?
A: Let me begin by saying that our cities and towns would have a much lower quality of life if libraries were only virtual entities. If all librarians did was telephone reference and everyone reserved their books online and used the library only to pick them up, it would be a very bad situation indeed, and I find that possible future profoundly depressing. That said, one of the challenges facing the library profession is how to balance the relative ease of the online world with the many benefits that come from actually visiting the public library in person, whether for information, book discussions, story times, instruction, or, of course, help finding something to read. I believe that nothing beats a face-to-face readers’ advisory conversation between a patron and a librarian—you can learn so much from things which can’t be communicated online, like body language and tone of voice.
But at the same time, libraries can’t not have an online presence, if only because so many (but not all, by any means) of our users expect us to be online. I think that some of the best minds in libraryland are thinking about how to make online RA work, and here’s an example: One of the libraries that I know best is—no surprise—Seattle Public. So I spoke to librarian Jared Mills about the online RA assistance that’s offered through a campaign called “Your Next 5 Books,” in which anyone (you don’t even need an SPL library card to make use of it!) can send in a list of five books that they’ve enjoyed (or describe what they’re in the mood for, or their reading likes and dislikes), and, within a week, they’ll receive a personalized list created by librarians of five book suggestions. The list includes not only authors and titles, but also a brief annotation explaining why they selected the book for you. This service is available for children, teens, and adults. And Jared told me that they’re hearing from many satisfied patrons who want their next five books. You can check it out on the Seattle Public QWeb site (www.spl.org/yournextfive). And, I’d love to hear from librarians about other great ways of using the online world to connect readers with books.
Books to Read Before You Die
In honor of the landing of Curious on Mars, space out on these titles:
Shine Shine Shine, by Lydia Netzer
The Time It Takes To Fall, by Margaret Lazarus Dean
Infinite Tides, by Christian Kiefer
Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem
The Eleven Mile Mile High Dancer, by Carol Hill
Gentlemen of Space, by Ira Sher
Nancy Pearl, a veteran Seattle librarian, is a regular commentator about books on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.