Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrity Book Clubs

Okay, I love me a celebrity book club... as long as their taste is similar to mine. When I was young and stubborn and first working in a bookstore, I eschewed Oprah's Book Club as a herd mentality way of choosing books. Of course, what Oprah's Book Club really did was spotlight literature and get generations of viewers interested in books, which I now recognize is totally awesome.

Lately, Oprah is joined by more and more celebrities using their power to spotlight their favorite reads. Of course, librarians know about Sarah Jessica Parker's ALA Book Club: SLJ Picks. Reese Witherspoon also shares her picks on Instagram in her Hello Sunshine book club.  Emma Watson has a feminist book club on Good Reads. And I'm sure there are more and more to come.

I'm particularly excited that a lot of the recent choices have been diverse titles by #ownvoices authors! I know they don't need any more publicity, but here are a few I have been digging recently:

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017). William Morrow. 304 pages. Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal. Review copy provided by my local library.

Reese Witherspoon's latest book club choice is a story about a British-Punjabi new adult who, floundering about her career choices, starts teaching a writing class at a local Sikh temple. From the publisher copy: "Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind."

I just started the audiobook of this title because I needed an audiobook that would REALLY COMPEL me to keep listening (otherwise I do no cleaning and get no exercise, so...). I think this one is going to fit the bill. I'm one chapter in and loving it so far. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018). Algonquin Books. 320 pages. Review copy purchased with my Book of the Month subscription - want to try it? Use my referral link here to get a free book!

I am in the middle of this one right now and pretty much all I want to do is stay home and read it. Oprah's latest Book Club choice is about an African American couple and what happens to their relationship when, after a year and a half of marriage, husband Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's totally character-based, which is my jam, and I'm just fascinated with where the story's going. It may have extra appeal for me as a wife coming up on our second wedding anniversary: what would I do if this happened? How would we handle it? 

Funny story: this book was available to preorder as "Oprah's Book Club Choice" before the title of Oprah's choice was announced. Of course I ordered multiple copies, knowing that a new Oprah pick would be super popular. I came in to the office one day to find four copies of this book on the processing cart and I said, "Oh, no, what did I do now? Why did I order four copies of this book?" only to find out that - of course - it was Oprah's pick. I was so happy because it had already been looking forward to this book. And I am enjoying it so, so much. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017). Penguin. Review copy purchased from Book of the Month

This one was a Reese Witherspoon pick from back in the fall and it's recently been announced that it'll be made into a series on Hulu. My family book club read this one last fall and had some great discussions around it; you can bet one of the book club ladies sent me the news of the new TV series as soon as she heard. 

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families, intertwined by happenstance, who change each other's lives in dramatic ways. It also tells the story of a young Chinese mother who abandoned her baby, only to change her mind and fight against a white adoptive couple for custody of the child and how the fight divides their community. 

What do you think about celebrity book clubs? Any favorites you've discovered through celeb recommendations?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Honest Truth

So I just got a survey from my alma mater, Indiana University, which is up for re-accreditation next year. And one of the questions was "Why did you choose to attend Indiana University Bloomington for your degree?"

And I gave the honest answer.

Which is this:

My boyfriend lived in Bloomington and I wanted an excuse to move back there. We broke up two months after I moved back, BUT I got a  great education and have yet to break up with libraries. 

So, y'know. We all have different paths and at least the ex was good for something.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Folks. FOLKS. Are you paying attention? Because if you serve any Percy Jackson fans, YOU NEED THIS.

As you may be aware, Rick Riordan has a new imprint with Disney-Hyperion called Rick Riordan Presents. This new imprint is for middle grade series based on world mythology written by own voices authors. YES. GET EXCITED.

And I want to let you know that this very first book in the very first series of the new imprint is AWESOME. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi.

Aru Shah is somewhat of a loner. She lives with her mom in Atlanta in a house connected to the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, but her mom is gone most of the time on business trips. She tries to make friends with the kids at school, but somehow Aru's active imagination always seems to get in the way. So when three of her classmates show up at the Museum one day, Aru is desperate to impress them... so she tells them about the cursed lamp, the lamp her mother has warned her never to touch.

Aru lights the lamp.
And time stops.
Lighting the lamp awakens an ancient, evil spirit called the Sleeper. And now Aru, a descendent of the legendary Pandava brothers, has nine days to save the world.

If you have fans of Percy Jackson in your library or in your life, you're going to want to get this series opener. Fittingly, it is the best readalike for Percy Jackson that I have yet read. The story is full of action and adventure and interpretations of Hindu mythology, but it also has a lot of humor, giving it a tone that feels very much like Percy Jackson.

I love that Rick Riordan is using his superstar author status to publish own voices stories and I think these are going to be hits. Aru Shah comes out March 27, so go ahead and get your orders in. You'll want this book on your shelves and you'll want to add it to your booktalks.

It's been announced that the next series from Riordan's imprint will be focused on Mayan mythology (The Storm Runner by Jennifer Cervantes is out in September) and Korean mythology (Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee is out next January). I, for one, can't wait!

Featured book: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (Grades 4-8.) Disney-Hyperion, March 2017. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Building a Collection Development Toolkit

Image of a light bulb inside a chalk thought bubble. Like, an idea.

When I took on a new position as Collection Development Leader at my library, I knew I would need to reach out to find resources to help me in my job. I have been pretty good at staying on top of what's being published as far as youth materials since that's been part of my job for many years. But I am brand new at collecting materials for adults, so I've been building up my resources in that area. Not only did I need resources, but I needed to figure out how to manage them in a convenient way.

One system that's worked for me is signing up for collection development and reader's advisory emails and then setting up filters so that they go to their own folders and I can peruse them when I have time. Emails go straight to their own folders and then I reserve some time each day or every couple of days to look through them.

What are the resources I have found so far? 

Book Pulse from Library Journal. Becky Spratford of RA for All pointed me to this resource and I am so grateful. Updated each weekday, this blog points out popular titles for the week, books new to the NYT Best Seller List, and books that have been reviewed in big publications or mentioned in the media. It also shares general book news like award announcements, author deaths, etc. The posts can be emailed to you, so I get them in my Book Pulse folder each day.

Baker & Taylor's Fast Facts. This weekly email includes not only hot titles for the upcoming week and titles about to be featured on radio and TV but it includes a spreadsheet of all titles being published the following week. Sometimes that's too overwhelming, but it's broken down into Adult Fiction, Adult Nonfiction, New Paperback, etc. so unless it's a super busy week it's helpful to me to double-check and see if there's anything I've missed that I want to make sure I order. My library is a Baker & Taylor customer, but it looks to me like you can access their Fast Facts even if you're not (I could be wrong!)

Shelf Awareness Pro. This is another weekday email blast that sends out book-related news. A lot of it pertains more to bookstores, but it helps me keep my eye on the publishing world. Even the ads can be helpful, pointing me to books that are being heavily marketed that I might want to put on my radar.

Check Your Shelf. This is a new bi-weekly email sent out by Book Riot for a librarian audience. Even though I haven't actually gotten my first email yet, I trust it will be a useful resource since I already rely on Book Riot's blog posts to help make me aware of new and upcoming adult books. Bonus: if you sign up now you can enter to win a free library cart!

LibraryReads. Each month, LibraryReads announces librarians' top ten picks for the upcoming month so you can put them on your radar. I get these emailed to me so I can forward the list out to my public services staff and make them aware of hot books that will be coming out.

RA for All. Becky Spratford has an amazing blog with tons of resources for reader's advisory, which goes hand in hand with collection development. I've found out about many great resources through her blog.

Book Riot. Here's another great blog for staying on top of what's new and upcoming in books. What I love about this site is that it's geared towards all readers; there's something for everyone here. Not every post is relevant to my work, but there are tons of book lists and they make an effort to feature diverse books, which is important.

Rich in Color: Diverse Books Release Calendar. Here's another great resource for keeping on top of diverse children's books coming out. It's something I have bookmarked to check each month so I can be sure to be collecting diverse titles for my library.

These are some of the resources I have found most useful and use regularly. I use other resources from my vendors (e.g. Baker & Taylor's Automatically Yours plan and their First Look carts). What should I add to my toolkit?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another Great #24in48

This weekend was the 24in48 Readathon, one of my favorite events of the year! My husband and I cleared our calendars (partially) and stocked up on books and snacks and we read, read, read all weekend long. One of the things I like about this readathon is that it allows some flexibility since it takes place over two days. We hosted an event for our friends and I took numerous naps and I still made it to 24 hours this weekend!

And I read some GREAT books this weekend! You can expect longer posts about some of these, but this was my list: 

  • Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (Soho Teen, January 2018). I got halfway through this one last night. A Muslim Indian teen is caught between two boys she likes while she tries to figure out how to tell her parents she's going to NYU instead of the university they like. 
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2017). So cute and funny, this was un-put-down-able to me. Korean-American senior Desi has always succeeded when she has a plan, but can a plan to find love based on Korean drama shows work when she falls for brooding artist Luca? 
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hinandani (Dial, March 2018). It's 1947 and Nisha and her family are forced to leave their home after India's partition divides the country into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu/Sikh India. The book is written in diary entries and reminded me of Anne Frank and The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. 
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017). After prep school boy Justyce McAllister is arrested for trying to help an intoxicated friend (NOT carjacking her like the police assume), he starts to really notice the injustices happening around him and to write letters to Martin Luther King to sort out his thoughts about what's happening. Teens looking for a primer on privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement need look no further. 
  • Hurricane Child by Khreyn Callendar (Scholastic, March 2018). Born during a hurricane, Caroline has always been able to see things no one else can. When a new girl comes to school and agrees to help her find her mother, Caroline finds herself swept up in new feelings. 
  • American Panda by Gloria Chao (Simon Pulse, February 2018). Mei has always been the good Taiwanese American girl, doing just what her parents want. But as she starts pre-med at MIT she'll have to face the fact that she's a total germaphobe and that she's falling for a boy her parents would never approve of. 
  • Chasing King's Killer by James L. Swanton (Scholastic, January 2018). In the tradition of his other books for young readers, Swanton has written a gripping true crime thriller about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • Superb Vol. 1: Life After the Fallout by David F. Walker, Sheena Howard, and Ray-Anthony Height (Lion Forge, December 2017). A comic with a superhero with Down's Syndrome. Yes, please.
  • And I listened to about 3 hours of my current audiobook, LaRose by Louise Erdrich.
My standout favorites of the Readathon were Chasing Martin's Killer and I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Both of those were un-put-down-able and the pages flew by as I was reading them.  But I really got to read a lot of fantastic books this weekend. 

I want to send a big huge

thank you!!!

to our Readathon hosts. This is such a fun weekend for me and I really appreciate the work that goes into making it happen! 

Mark your calendars for the next 24in48 Readathon, which will be happening July 21-22, 2018!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#24in48 Readathon

Friends, the 24in48 Readathon is coming up again this weekend and I have been getting ready!

With my recent change in position at my library, I have been reading so many adult books, which is great and I've read some awesome books. But I'm dedicating this weekend to getting caught up on the teen and middle grade titles I've had my eye on. I'm pretty excited about having a weekend of stellar reads to pick up, and a bonus of reading youth lit is that they're quicker reads. I love finishing multiple books and really getting a sense of accomplishment out of my readathons.

I always like to have a wide variety of books at my disposal for these events, and I choose way more books than I will actually be able to finish. I've been working on getting my To Be Read stacks ready, and here are some of the books I may pick up this weekend:

It's not too late to sign up and dedicate your weekend to reading, reading, reading!

Are you participating in the 24in48 Readathon this weekend? What's on your stack? 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The "We" in Collection Development

Previously, I posted There's No "I" in Collection Development, about checking personal biases as I'm selecting books for our community.

It turns out that there might not be an "I" in collection development, but there certainly should be a WE. Particularly if your library has centralized selection (i.e. one person or one department selecting materials for the entire library or system). Who are your collection development partners?

(Image shows a cat standing on a dog's back to reach the refrigerator water dispenser with the words "Teamwork makes the dream work.")


My front-line colleagues are an important partnership. They're the ones at the circulation desk and shelving the books and talking to patrons every day. They're the ones that know what new series is popular with elementary school kids, what title everyone's asking for because it was mentioned on a local radio station, what genres our large print readers are seeking. Make it as easy as possible for them to make suggestions for purchase.

I created a Google form that is bookmarked on every public service desk computer and I also emailed the URL to every staff member so they could bookmark it for themselves if they wanted to. Staff can pass along patron requests for purchase, suggest general subjects we need more materials on, or request particular titles they think would be a good fit for our library.

I also walk around.

I admit, sometimes it's nice to spend a day in my office at my desk working quietly on book things. But I'm doing my library a disservice if that's all I do. When I walk around, I can see changes that are happening to our physical shelves. I talk to my colleagues and ask them what's working and what's not. How are things going? Is there anything they need that I can help with?


My patrons are an important partnership. They're the ones who can best tell me what they're looking for and I need to listen to them. Staff can pass along their requests for purchase (and soon we'll have a place where patrons can make their requests directly - we're working on this bit). I can also listen to them by checking the holds lists and running circulation reports.

I also walk around.

I can listen to our patrons by perusing the shelving carts to see what's been recently checked out or by scanning the stacks to see what's been so loved that it's falling apart. I can jump on to a circulation desk to help patrons and engage with them. Have they read the first book by this author they're checking out? What did they think? How did they hear about this book?

It was by helping staff the circulation desk that I learned that some of my patrons get book recommendations from local blogger and podcaster Modern Mrs. Darcy, so you can be sure I added her blog to my feed and read it regularly.


I get so much help from outside sources - a post about resources I have discovered for collection development is coming soon. But vendors make up another important partnership for me as I step into this collection development role. As with stepping into any new role, I have not been afraid to ask questions. I've tried to contact all the vendors I'm now working with and ask for training or introduce myself. And many of them provide valuable help in keeping me aware of what's hot and new and what will be useful for my collection.

Like I said, look for a resource post coming soon (and probably many more in the future... I'm still new at this!). But don't overlook vendor reps as valuable partners. Use them!

Who are your partners in collection development?

Friday, January 12, 2018

What My Niece is Into: Sharks

Whenever I hear that my niece is into something, I immediately run out and buy her a few books about it if I can. Providing kids with books that fit their interests is a great way to encourage reading and help kids develop a love of reading. I already highlighted books you can sing, which I bought her for Christmas, and I think I'll try to make this a regular feature on my blog. 

Niece: S, age 18 months
Currently into: SHARKS.

S showed up with a beautifully scientifically correct stuffed shark at book club the other night (rows of teeth and everything!). My sister in law said that she's also got fish bath toys; sharks are big right now. I think it comes from the song Baby Shark, which maybe they sing at her daycare? Not sure. But my mission was clear: shark board books for a toddler (particularly I wanted to get her some science-based ones)! Here's what I came up with: 

Sharks by the American Museum of Natural History (Sterling Children's Books, 2017). This is my favorite of the ones I ordered. It has real photos and lots of information. Too much information for a toddler, but we can definitely talk about the pictures together and it shows lots of different types of sharks, so there's lots of great vocabulary. 

The inside is awesome: each shark spread gets its own die-cut page, so it looks really cool. I think S will have a lot of fun turning the pages and exploring this book. 

I Spy in the Ocean by Damon Burnard, illustrated by Julia Cairns. (Chronicle Books, 2001). This is a cute board book with a die-cut hole in each page to give a clue as to the new spread coming up in our game of eye-spy. Spelling out the word OCEAN, each letter features a different ocean animal: O is for Octopus, C is for Crab, and so forth. The game is probably a bit beyond my niece right now, but it's a nice introduction to the eye-spy game and I like the soft watercolor illustrations. Highlighting letters is a good way to build letter knowledge. 

My Little Golden Book About Sharks by Bonnie Bader, illustrated by Steph Laberis (Golden Books, 2016). This will definitely be one for the library for her to grow into. It has a lot of information, including naming the parts of a shark and showing a cutaway of a shark's skeleton. Some of the illustrations are kind of scary, which I think might be too much for her right now, but if she's interested in ocean animals in a few years she may be super into them. This one would be a good choice for early elementary kids who are interested in sharks. 

That's what my niece is currently into and what I just bought to add to her library. If you're looking for more picture books about sharks, check out my recent Shark Storytime for some ideas. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

There's No "I" in Collection Development

(Okay, of course there's an "i" in Collection Development, but bear with me...)

Image of teetering, overstuffed bookshelves. If I am not careful, our shelves will look like this.

It's a selector's responsibility to maintain a balanced collection in the library. We're taught that in grad school. They say that if 20% of your library's collection personally offends you (politically, religiously, etc.), you're doing your job.

But there are smaller biases that we need to be aware of, too. What are your personal biases? And how do you check them as you're selecting for your collection?

What I mean is, I can tell what personal interests our selectors have had as I look at our collection. There are some sections that are just perennially popular and have been widely ordered throughout the years: mysteries, large print, Christian fiction... But there are some sections that give me pause.

Looking at the collection, I can tell that at a certain time our selector of nonfiction loved reading biographies. Our biography section ballooned at that time. Other past selectors have had other personal interests I can spot as I look through what's circulating - and what's not - in our collection.

When I first heard I had gotten this job, I thought "Great! Now I can make sure we have any book my heart desires; I can just buy any book I think I want to read!"

Surely, I thought, if I read it someone else will want it. I have great taste! Everyone will love the exact same books I will!

That's flawed thinking and will probably result in many books sitting on the shelf, not circulating or checked out once (by me!). And that's not doing any favors to our collection.

Being in charge of selection is about more than getting the books I personally want to read on our shelves. I'm selecting for the entire community. And that means more than just ensuring that I'm buying books I know my patrons will be interested in. It means checking my impulse to buy the books that personally sound interesting to me and asking myself if they're a good fit for my community as well.

I've learned some surprising things as I've stopped to think carefully about what I'm selecting. I have an impulse to buy every book with feminist themes that is being published. I love reading about icky medical history, I crave short story collections, I am drawn to writers from Africa. Some of those may be interests my patrons share, but I've got to make sure I'm asking myself this question: who am I buying this book for?

If the answer is that my patrons will be interested and check it out, great! In the cart it goes. If not, maybe I add it to my GoodReads to-read list and seek it out for myself later.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Short Story Project

How do I love short story collections? Let me count the ways... 

1. A well-crafted short story brings the reader to care and wonder about a character or a situation in quite a short amount of pages. Some stories you'd happily read a novel-size version of, but some you're fine to let go when they're done. If they're well-written, you keep thinking about them long after the pages are turned. 

2. They provide natural stopping points, so story collections are awesome if you don't have hours and hours to read at a stretch. You can pick up your book, read one or two stories, and then set it down without having to remember who your characters are when you are next able to pick up your book again. Stories are great for busy times when you don't get a lot of time to read. 

2b. I especially like to point this feature of story collections out when I am booktalking - students and other folks often don't have a ton of time to devote to leisure reading and they may not naturally gravitate towards short stories. I point out that this type of book is very easy to pick up and put down without losing your place. 

3. If you don't like a story in a collection.... skip it and move right on to the next one. Maybe you'll like those characters or that setting better. This is another great feature to emphasize when booktalking! 

3b. Story collections (and essay collections!) by multiple authors can be a GREAT way to sample a lot of different authors if you're looking for a new favorite. Back when I first started reading stories in high school, I would go through the Best American Short Stories and copy down the names of my favorite authors so I could go back and read their novels or their own story collections. 

3c. Story collections for middle-graders and teens are great to be familiar with and to promote to teachers because they can be utilized for reading practice for kids who may not be up for reading an entire novel. Or they might be able to be used in the classroom for talking about literary elements, etc. If you work with kids and/or teachers, becoming familiar with story collections is a great thing to do!

As I thought about ways I could read better this year, I wanted at least one way to be devoted to reading something I enjoy. Not because I need to be familiar with the books for work (although that is still helpful!), but just because it's something that I want to read. This year, I decided to rekindle my love for short stories by starting a Short Story Project: read at least 6 story collections in 2018. 

And since I've been thinking about it, I've got a few on deck and I'd also love to know what story collections (for any age!) you would suggest! 


Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin (Random House, 2016). My husband bought us a short story advent calendar this year and Ms. McLaughlin had a story in there, so I wanted to read her collection. I'm in the middle of it now and quite enjoying these domestic tales centered around family members interacting.  

Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang (Lenny, 2017). These are stories of first-generation Chinese-American immigrants which The New Yorker calls "ingenious". I am fascinated by the immigrant experience and I think it's important to read and learn about it, so sign me up for this collection. 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press, 2017). Shortlisted for the National Book Award, this collection is visceral and sensual. I started it a few months ago, but I ran out of time with it and there was a holds list, so I'll definitely be seeking it out again to finish it!


An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (Flatiron Books, 2016). These historical fiction stories center around the Partition of Pakistan from India in 1947, so this one might also count as a postcolonial novel for Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. 

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press, 2017). I have not yet read Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, so these stories might be a good way to get my feet wet. Plus, I just read Thi Bui's amazing graphic memoir The Best We Could Do, which has piqued my interest in Vietnam.

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin, February 2018). Yes, Newbery-Medal-winning Kelly Barnhill has a collection of adult stories coming out this year. Gimme!

Those are all adult collections, but there is a particular YA collection coming out this year that I'm super excited about, too: 

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman (Greenwillow Books, June 2018). This multi-author teen collection "reimagine[s] the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate." (Quote from GoodReads description.) Sign. Me. Up.

So, tell me: do you read short stories? Which collections would you suggest I put on my radar or pick up this year?