Kevin: “A delight.” “Engaging and big-hearted.” “Irresistible.” “Intense and rewarding…It expanded my heart.” “Amazing…One of my favorite novels of 2012.” “It positively hums.” “Terrific.” “Funny, heart-squeezing, pitch-perfect, and studded with finely chosen details on every page.” “It wrecked me in the best way.”
That is what the back of the paperback edition of The Fault in Our Stars would look like if John Green’s publicist only solicited blurbs from people who voted against it in the ToB championship match.
We ended up with a TIE in our librarian bracket challenge! One children’s librarian and one administrator. Thankfully, readers’ advisory won the departmental challenge, because even though we did not do well individually, we entered the contest in droves. STRENGTH IN NUMBERS.
The prize for the Darien Library winners is the same as it is for the ToB winner: a live rooster, or a donation to Heifer International. We will let you know what our winners pick. (And in the meantime, we are going to figure out how to catalog a rooster, just in case.)
To my mind, the first responsibility of a book recommender is to provide the reader something they will enjoy. Otherwise, you lose credibility and people will no longer come to you for recommendations, so your uptightness is more of a common courtesy.
That said, as the Biblioracle, I try to fulfill the primary directive while also pushing the envelope as far as it will go for that particular reader in order to expand their palate of books and authors. I do this not to move the needle on what people read towards what I’d like them to read, but because I think that readers who come to me will really enjoy having a somewhat different vein of literature opened up for them.
For example, if someone submits a list of recent reads filled with very popular, but also somewhat formulaic (an observation, not a criticism) and exclusively male crime/thriller writers like Robert Crais or Harlan Coben, I will recommend Laura Lippman, Kate Atkinson, or even Patricia Highsmith.
For me to recommend a book that’s truly “challenging,” the requester needs to demonstrate an openness to that challenge. If Gravity’s Rainbow is on someone list of recent reads, I’m confident I can recommend William Gaddis’s JR. If they’re on a Virginia Woolf kick, I can recommend Djuna Barnes. The interesting thing about these sorts of recommendations is that there’s a much higher likelihood that the reader will find the suggested book “revelatory” than when I’m working in “less challenging” territory.
I think this just speaks to the different demands different readers have of books. I only go for “challenging” books occasionally. Sometimes I just don’t have the mental horsepower necessary to process something like Infinite Jest.
And just because I might like two books, and one of those books is on the list of recent reads, I don’t necessarily automatically suggest the other book I liked. As a present example, I loved both May We Be Forgiven and Beautiful Ruins, but if someone said they loved Beautiful Ruins, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend May We Be Forgiven.
Most of our librarians did not get to participate in today’s ToB matchup between Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and May We Be Forgiven since almost everybody chose wrong for the play-in.
So instead, let’s all admire John Warner’s commentary, which would be right at home in any Readers’ Advisory 101 course!
So far the brackets of the Darien Library are not faring well in this tournament. Almost everybody picked The Yellow Birds (Billy Lynn took the day) and today, almost everybody had The Round House. Only one person is two-for-two! She is one of our children’s librarians. There’s really nothing children’s librarians can’t do.
Further update: now that The Orphan Master’s Son has beat Where’d You Go, Bernadette, the same children’s librarian is still in the lead. As for adult Readers’ Advisory staff? A cumulative one point. Obviously this contest is a sham and a farce.