With the beginning of this fresh new year, I have taken over selecting all the Fiction and Romance titles for our library system. I have a significant budget increase, which is wonderful, but also a bit overwhelming when you think about how many books are published in those genres during the course of the year. Within fiction, you find: literary fiction, women's or contemporary domestic fiction, Urban fiction, historical fiction, Christian fiction, psychological thrillers, legal thrillers, and some dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. In Romance, you find: contemporary romance, historical romance, Christian and Amish romance and romantic suspense. Oh, and short story collections, too! My eyes are crossing and my blood pressure is rising just reading that list!
Our collection development policy requires there to be at least one positive review from a professional review sources, such as Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, or Kirkus. We order from a company that has a database that allows us to create lists of books, read reviews and place orders, all on the same site.
In making decisions on what to purchase each month, I have to look at our current collection carefully: if a title is part of a series, do we have the rest? How well have the other books circulated (I have to have our ILS, or integrated library system, open to check this frequently - if an author or series hasn't circulated well, I have to decide whether to continue to buy those). If there are no reviews, but it's a popular author, I may look at GoodReads or Amazon and take a look at the top positive and critical reviews to see what other librarians or published authors think about a book (if those are available).
All this being said, I now spend quite a bit more hours on collection development, in addition to editing two book review newsletters, my regular hours on the Reference Desk and planning and facilitating library programs for adults. Still, I love it all!
As I settle into this new role, I find that I am not reading as much, for my own pleasure. I read so many book reviews during the day, it almost feels like I've been reading books for hours! And I haven't felt really very motivated to write book reviews on my blog, either!
Now onto what I have been able to read, or am currently reading:
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Kim Michele Richardson
May 7, 2019
I won't give an extensive review of this title because it isn't being published until May. I found out about it a couple months ago, and the author was so kind to send me an advanced reader's copy after I expressed a lot of interest on social media! Book Woman was the first book I finished in 2019, on New Year's Day, in fact!
Shining a bright light on a dark era of Kentucky history in the 1930's, this novel tells the fictionalized story of a people and an organization that actually existed at that time. In Eastern Kentucky, there was a group of people who had a medical issue that caused them to have blue skin. You can Google this and see images of some of the actual family members who lived with this condition. They were reviled, ostracized, and treated with great suspicion because of their skin color and were actually referred to as "colored" in the same way as African Americans were during that era.
As part of the New Deal in the 1930's, the government employed women and some men to deliver books to the people who lived very distant from the towns, and did not have access to books. These pack horse librarians were mainly admired and welcomed, but also treated with reservation by some of the secluded families who lived separated from the rest of their communities. The author created a character, Cussy Mary Carter, who was a "Blue" and also a pack horse librarian. It is an incredible story, with a gentle and sympathetic main character who just stole my heart. It is also a hard read at times because of how the Blues and some of the other characters were treated by the white community.
The author has done an incredible job of giving a voice to both the Blues and the brave and fierce pack horse librarians who rode mules and horses into the mountains, at great risk to their lives, to deliver books, magazines, scrapbooks and even food to the poverty-stricken people of that time. I hope everyone loves it as much as I did. As I turned the last page I found myself wanting to be more kind, compassionate, tolerant and charitable as I began a new year.
I was having a bit of trouble getting interested in a book after finishing Book Woman, and was starting to get a little worried that I was getting burned out on reading. Not to fear! I just had to find the right book(s).
Mentioned by a librarian colleague, I was immediately sucked into the story in Bring Me Back, by B.A. Paris, about a man whose girlfriend goes missing at a rest stop in France - only the narrator tells you that he isn't being completely honest. I don't like him much, but it's been hard to put this one down - unreliable narrators still abound! This was published last June.
When All is Said is a debut by Irish novelist Anne Griffin and will be published in March. Thanks to the marketing division at Macmillan for this galley! "One night, 5 drinks, 5 toasts." This one has Irish charm in spades! I love the way the author expresses the dialogue and inner voice of the main character, 84 year old Maurice Hannigan. According to the description, over the course of one evening, Maurice will raise his glass in five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories, the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.
And because I cannot imagine wasting any "book reading" time, I am also listening to the audiobook of Kate Atkinson's newest novel, Transcription. I am a fan of this author's Jackson Brody series, but am finding it a little hard not to let my mind wander while listening to this one. I keep having to rewind to figure out what is going on! Juliet Armstrong worked for the British secret service during World War II, and thought she had put the horrors of war behind her. 10 years later, while working for the BBC, shadowy figures from her past come back to haunt her. We will see if it keeps my interest on my commute over the next few days.
I do have a whole stack, both physical and digital, of galleys that I need to read, courtesy of the wonderful publishers who work with Librarians. Its a great problem to have - having too much to read, yet not enough time - so I'm grateful!