DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Apr 30 2018

How to Find a Book

by Dea Anne M

bookspostI worked as a bookseller for a number of years and I’d have to say that the most rewarding aspect of that job for me was helping my customers pick out great books to read. Of course a lot of folks would come in knowing already what they wanted to purchase (“Do you have the latest John Grisham?” Where are your yoga books?” “Harry Potter! Harry Potter! Harry Potter!”), but more people than you might think want to have books recommended to them. Not to brag (except that, of course, I’m bragging), but I took a lot of pride in my ability to ask the right questions in order to guide my customer to just the right book.

Not so for a co-worker of mine at another store (at the time I was working for a small local chain of “neighborhood” bookstores). This guy was famous for his love of the thriller genre. I mean that’s all he ever read. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their preferences. The problem was that thrillers were all that he’d ever recommend…to anybody. I’d heard this about him, but I’m not sure that I completely believed it (how could a devoted bookseller be so wedded to a genre?) until he filled in at my store for a week. It was true! Whatever the customer’s expressed preference – lush romance, civil war novels, the hardest of sci-fi – he’d show them all the same thriller that he’d been raving about all week – let’s call it “Be Very Afraid!”

Me – “That lady asked for an historical romance set in late 1800’s Colorado.”

Him – “Yeah. So?”

Me – “You showed her “Be Very Afraid!”

Him – “She wanted a good book and that’s a good book!”

Me – “So if someone came through that door right now and wanted a good book for her seven year old nephew who loves dinosaurs, color wheels and knock-knock jokes would you show her “Be Very Afraid?”

Him – “It’s never too early to get kids hooked on quality fiction!”

Anyway, I’m sure you get the picture.

Now some of you might look at the title of this post and think “Well, gee, she works in a library! How hard can it be to find a book? Just go to the shelf!” I can assure you that even when surrounded by books it can often be difficult to find just the right one. Luckily, DCPL is here to help.

tub

Sometimes you might just want to know what other people have read and enjoyed because the odds are pretty good that you might enjoy it too.  In Ten Years In the Tub , novelist Nick Hornby chronicles his own pursuit of the pleasures of reading. He talks about the books he has read and loved, the books that he’s purchased then shelved never to be picked up again, and those books hurled across the room in anger or set down in bored indifference. You might get new reading ideas from this very gifted writer – plus he’s very, bookshelfvery funny.

My Ideal Bookshelf Thessaly La Force (editor) and Jane Mount (illustrator) is a charming idea, and beautifully executed. La Force invited authors, chefs and other luminaries (Malcolm Gladwell, Alice Waters and James Patterson to name a few) to name the books that have been the most important in shaping their lives. Mount then created charming paintings featuring the spines of said books. Also included is commentary from each contributor illuminating the personal importance of each title. This is a gorgeous coffee table that might just inspire some new choices for you.reads

Sometimes you want your book to be more of a snack than a seven-course meal. For those times, you’ll want to peruse 100 One-Night Reads: A Book Lover’s Guide by David C. Major and John C. Majors. As you might suspect from the title, the book surveys a number of very short books – both fiction and non-fiction. It’s clear that the Majors brothers are deep readers with a breadth of interest. The summary of each title is succinct, while still compelling, and the authors often include biographical information on the author and some of the publishing history as well. It’s true that the most recently published recommendation is probably Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf: A New Verse Translation but that shouldn’t deter you. Classics are, after all, classic for a reason.

magicFinally, we come to a fabulous tool that’s available to you through DCPL’s website. This wonder is NoveList Plus (scroll down under Books and Literature and click NoveList Plus link) and you’ll find it among our reference databases . You can use NoveList Plus to search for potential great reads in all sorts of useful ways. I happen to love Elizabeth Hand’s novel Waking the Moon and NoveList Plus provides me with a handy list of “Title Read-alikes” such as Counterfeit Magic by Kelly Armstrong. I can also look up “Author Read-alikes” to find authors who share a similar style such as Stephen Baxter.  I can also search for books that I might enjoy by inputting appeal terms that mirror aspects of Hand’s work flightsuch as “complex” (character), “atmospheric” (tone) and “richly detailed” (writing style). This brings up suggestions like Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks.  You can search by genre or by audience (adult, teen, ages 9-12 and ages 0-8). You can specify books of a certain lexile range or narrow your search to authors of a specific cultural identity. You can even use NoveList Plus to look for non-fiction. I can’t recommend this tool highly enough if you’re looking for your next great read. And if you work in a library (like me!) NoveList Plus is one of the best tools out there that you can use to find good books for your patrons.

How do you find a book?

Camille May 3, 2018 at 4:06 PM

Great post Dea Anne. First of all there are many people like your co-worker who are totally consumed by their genres, but I guess to each his own. And you’re right about Novel List. It has become one of my favorite go-to databases when I’m looking for something specific, or require a certain mood. Patrons also get quite excited when you point them in that direction, especially if they’ve never heard of it before. We also have a display here at Stonecrest where we put out the books that we, as a staff, have read or are currently reading, and those books check out pretty quickly too. People always seem to be curious about what others are reading, and it’s an easy way to find a good read when don’t have the time to browse the catalog yourself.

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