Reader’s Advisory

“I have sometimes dreamt… that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards – their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble – the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give here. They have loved reading.” (The Second Common Reader, Virginia Woolf)

Even the most experienced readers sometimes hesitate before answering the question “what should I read next?” Many people develop systems for how to pick books, such as knowing which friends give good recommendations or keeping a running list in one’s head, but sometimes old habits fail and we need some fresh resources. Since starting library school, I have come across some wonderful and varied reader’s advisory sources and am rather excited to finally have time to post about them.

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl is one librarian’s list of recommended books divided into 175 entertaining categories (including bicycling, presidential biographies, and gardening). Surprisingly, Nancy Pearl isn’t meticulous about reviewing every book, as one might expect from a long-term librarian, but instead casually mentions them in an ongoing conversation.  Also, in her own book of books, she has a “books about books” list which includes interesting titles such as A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes, A Passion for Books and For the Love of books by Ronald b. Shwartz; these might be further resources if you are looking to add a reader’s advisory book to your library.

Librarians… yes, Librarians, and the resources they have access to, are an excellent place to go for reader’s advisory. Even a well-read librarian can’t be expected to recommend the perfect book from personal experience, so he or she has access to a number of subscription resources that might be too expensive for an individual user, such as NoveList and Fiction Connection. These databases catalogue thousands of books according to different tags, such as genre and author read-alikes, and are easily searchable depending on user preferences.

Bookspotalthough not searchable like subscription-based NoveList, BookSpot is a free internet resource which compiles lists of recommended books from numerous resources. It also provides news about books, publishing authors, and awards, as well as links to the reviews of various periodicals.

The Horn BookDear Reader is a resource based around the idea that people will make time to read if intrigued by the first few chapters of a book. You sign up for a category of books, such as Penguin Classics, and the author of the site will e-mail you a chapter either weekly or monthly. She uses the site as a tool to help the reluctant reader, but I see no barrier to a heavier reader taking advantage of it.

The Horn Book and Library Journal – another way to know what to read next is to keep up to date with new publications through reviewing periodicals, such as The Horn Book (for children and young adults) or Library Journal.

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