Monday, March 7, 2016

So long, Shelfari!

Amazon, which owns both Shelfari and GoodReads, decided to pull the plug on the former in favour of the latter.  Shelfari was first introduced in 2006 and it offered readers the opportunity to build a virtual bookself.  It was quite different from other similar apps as it was graphical and actually allowed people to fill their "shelves."  

I have a dormant Shelfari account that I won't migrate.  I am not dedicated to the cause of maintaining records of my reading.  I tend to graze the reading landscape rather than create lists of expectations.  I read what I like in the moment and never like to be held to account when I change my mind.  

GoodReads will allow you to migrate your Shelfari account.  The instructions seem overly simplified for something that I expect will take more steps.  You can search the Internet for other instructions.  I would take some of them with a grin of salt.  If you are panicking, do some research before you press any buttons.

Monday, February 22, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird

With the news of Harper Lee's death over the weekend, there will be renewed interest in her writing.  Lee's most famous work, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960 and has become a fixture in the reading lives of so many over the years.  The work is still assigned as to high school students as a means to open up a dialogue about race relations in America. Most readers will have some experience with her work and the news of her death has been a topic of conversation amongst many.

In 2015, a new novel by Lee was released, "Go Set a Watchman."  The manuscript is shrouded in mystery and unresolved questions.  After her original book was published, Lee never wrote another work that was released.  Lee was living with age-related health issues when she is supposed to have approve the release of the Watchman manuscript.  Most who read the novel feel that it is only an earlier draft of Mockingbird.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a novel that allows readers to walk through any of Nancy Pearl's doorways to seek enjoyment.  The story is a taut and dimensional thriller with a central courtroom drama and satisfying side plots.  The characters are varied and still relatable nearly 50 years later.  The setting is interested and well drawn with realistic characteristics.  The language is interesting as it features dialect and the complex story is narrated by a child.  This is truly a rare book that can appeal to almost every reader and is thoroughly enjoyed by all who choose to read it.

Research suggests that Mockingbird was a book that was a heavily edited debut novel.  It is quite likely that Lee had several versions of the novel before the final version was released.  I believe Watchman is one of those versions and does not represent a completely new work of note.  As so few books can really straddle all appeal factors, I feel that the book is the genius of more than one writer.

The book remains an important book and a great read no matter how it came to be.  Lee will be forever remembered as the author of a book that taught so much about the history of the American south.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Going to the Dogs. . .

The 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize was awarded to Andre Alexis' "Fifteen Dogs."  The book is a short read that features a divine bet between Apollo and Hermes.  Apollo bets Hermes that dogs will be no happier if they are afforded human intelligence and self-awareness.  Those with a philosophical background will enjoy the argumentation that occurs throughout the narrative as the Gods debate the nature of the dogs' experience on earth.  The use of dogs as the main characters is also timely as canines have largely displaced actual human offspring on the desirability scale.

The Conversation:

Customer: "I just finished Alexis' "Fifteen Dogs."  Man, it was so good, I can see why it won the Giller.  I usually don't enjoy Canadian fiction - too much winter, too many bears and too many sad people."

Readers' Advisor: "I hear that!  The book was very urban and the focus on dogs was unique?  What did you like most about the book?"

C: "I really liked the argument between the Gods.  Like we are all just pawns in this game beyond our control.  I like to think of how animals are like humans or how they would behave like humans."

RA: "If I make some suggestions, would you be okay if there were no animals?  What if it focused just on philosophy or divine activities?"

C: "Nah, just the animals.  I think I want to read a few more books that feature animals in human situations."

The Search:

In my catalogue, the subject headings weren't too useful.  I did get a few options from using those, but I feel like the suggestions will come from past reading experience.  There are additional lists on goodreads and Genreflecting will have "animal stories."


Animal Farm (1945) George Orwell

Watership Down (1972) Richard Adams

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (2011) Benjamin Hale

Timbuktu (2000) Paul Auster

The Dog Master: A Novel of the First Dog (2015) W. Bruce Cameron

Project Nim (2011) film

Monday, February 8, 2016

Readers' Advisory at the OLA Superconference

I'll give you some direct links to RA session with additional content from the Superconference sessions

Psst…I Read Smutty Books
Chantelle Taylor, Kristel Fleuren-Hunter, Lesley Brann
  • A session about erotic fiction.

  • OLA's RA Committee's session about readers' advisory.

  • Serving the larger LGTBQ youth community.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Want The Revenant. . .

When the Oscar films are chosen, the number of holds on the books they are based on skyrockets!  Often, these are older titles and the publishers are scrambling to print movie-tie-ins.  There are a number of resources which can help you predict upcoming movies that are made into books.  You can't always predict how popular the book will become so this will always be a bit of crapshoot to match demand from the public.  EarlyWord and CBC Books have recently been the most helpful to me.

The Conversation:

Customer: "I am looking for The Revenant.  I want to read the book before I watch the movie."

Readers' Advisor: "That might be difficult because there are currently 200 holds on that book."

C: "Really?!  Oh, I was looking forward to reading it this weekend."

RA: "The book is widely available to purchase if you are really desperate to read it.  I can check availability at the local bookstore for you.  Can I make a few suggestions of books that are similar?  Do you know anything about the book?"

C: "I heard it was about a bear attack!  I like to read books about survival."

RA: "I checked Amazon and the books seems a lot like a Western.  Do you like Westerns?"

C:  "That part doesn't matter to me so much, I just like to read about how humans survive against animals."

RA:  "Okay, I'm going to do a search and make some suggestions."

The Search:

Your suggestions will likely come more from collection knowledge than search tools.  Some subject headings include: "revenge," "trappers" and "wilderness survival."  The BookList Reader has this list which can get you started if nothing comes to mind.


The Bear (2014) Claire Cameron

Grizzly Man (2005) film

Into the Wild (1997) Jon Krakauer - book and film

The Tenderness of Wolves (2007) Stef Penney

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (2010) John Valliant

Monday, January 11, 2016

I can't get enough of "Making of a Murderer"

The television show that is currently being binged upon is Netflix's "Making a Murderer."  This is a documentary series which follows a man convicted of rape who is later exonerated by DNA evidence.  He is subsequently charged with murder and the series follows the case over ten years.  Customers who have access to Netflix will be watching and discussing the series while customers who have no access to Netflix will hear about it and will be anxious to get their hands on the series when released on DVDs.

The Readers' Advisory Conversation:

Customer: "I have been watching this "Making a Murderer" series and I just can't get enough of it.  Do you have anything similar?"

Readers' Advisor: "I have hear about it but I haven't watched it.  Tell me about it and what you specifically like about it."

C: "It is about this guy who goes to jail, then gets out of jail and then goes to jail again.  I was so fascinated by all of the legal issues, how evidence is used and how it seems that no one knows the truth."

RA: "That's crazy!  I love movies and books that look at true crime.  You said that you liked watching the legal issues.  Are you interested in murderers in general or just ones who have their convictions questioned?"

C: "Nah, I hate that serial murderers stuff.  I want something that challenges my assumptions about the court case?  Anyone else who has been exonerated?"

RA: "Did you want books or films right now?"

C: "More movies, just movies right now."

RA: "Great, I'll give you some suggestions."

The Search:

Start with a catalogue search, limit your search to DVDs.  Search using search terms such as: "murder," "trials," "criminal investigation," and "criminal justice, administration of."  Do not limit your searches to just fiction DVDs as many of these films are documentaries.


Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hill (1996), Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (1999), Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (2012) and West of Memphis (2013).  Atom Egoyan directed a fictionalization of this real-life court case called, Devil's Knot (2013).

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files (2012)

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Murder on a Sunday Morning (2003)

Capturing the Friedmans (2003) - this films features a child abuse case but is focused on the trial

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton's Story (2013)

The Central Park Five (2012)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Loan Stars

Early reviews can be one of the most important tools for a readers' advisor.  Your readers will often come into the library to ask about the newest books because they are seeing them in the bookstores or in the media and they want to get information about the book to make a reading decision.  Library staff who have direct access to publishers' reps - Dewey Divas and Dudes - may be seeing forthcoming books and getting reviews however this is not available everywhere.

There is a new program in Canada which will keep you informed about the new forthcoming reads with reviews available.  Loan Stars will launch shortly and it will provide library staff with lists and reviews for forthcoming titles before books are even published.  This project is a partnership between BookNet Canada, Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC), Canadian library associations, library vendors and publishers.  Library staff can volunteer to be readers and reviewers.

Loan Stars is based on a similar American program, Library Reads.  This program features ten library staff picks per month.  The books featured are largely fiction with a few narrative non-fiction included.  The format of the Canadian version will be revealed when the tool is launched and it will be a great source of information for selectors and advisors.