You’ve found an author or read a book you really like and want more of the same. What to do? Ask at the Ask Here Desk. We have training and experience in reader’s advisory. As you might imagine, reader’s advisory is the skill (or is it an art?) of recommending books. One way we attempt to come up with books you might like is by learning out what authors you currently enjoy and suggesting books by authors who write in the same genre.
But that doesn’t always narrow things down enough, because different readers don’t necessarily enjoy the same aspects of a genre. For example, you and your friend may both read mysteries, but your friend reads mysteries for the puzzle, the challenge of figuring out “whodunit.” You, on the other hand, may read mysteries for the characters or the setting. Rather than trying to figure out who the killer is, you may be more interested in the atmosphere and mood of the book. Or you may enjoy learning what it’s like to live a certain place, or what life was like in a time period of the past.
Librarians use the term “appeal” to describe these subtle nuances that drive reader enjoyment. Appeal is very important in recommending books. That’s why if you ask us for book suggestions, we will probably ask questions about what you liked about a certain book or author. We’re trying to discover the appeal of those stories for you. Perhaps you like C.J. Box’s books. Before we can suggest other authors, we need to know what it about Box’s books that you particularly enjoy. Is it the western setting? The fast pace? The challenge of discovering who is the murderer or bad guy?
If it’s the setting of Box’s books you like, we might suggest you try Nevada Barr or Tony Hillerman’s mystery series. Or maybe Ivan Doig, who wrote literary fiction set in the West. Or even John Nesbitt, another Wyoming author who writes traditional historical and contemporary western stories. If it’s the fast pace of Box’s books that entices you, we might suggest other thriller writers like James Patterson or Jonathan Kellerman. And if it’s Box’s complex and realistic characters that especially satisfy you, there are dozens of mystery series we can recommend, such as those by William Krueger or James Lee Burke.
But maybe you’re not comfortable asking a staff member for book suggestions, or you never have time when you’re in the library. Never fear, there’s an online resource that can help you do “reader’s advisory” at home. It’s called Novelist and it is available through the library’s website under the Services tab. Log in with your library card and PIN, go to Articles and Databases and then click on the Novelist link (There is also a Novelist K-8 database for researching juvenile and young adult books.). Once you’re in Novelist, you can put in the title of a book you like and come up with a list of books or authors that are similar.
Another cool thing you can do in Novelist is search for a book or series that you enjoyed but now you can’t remember the author’s name. Put in what details you remember and Novelist will suggest some books that fit those criteria.
A lot of us feel like our favorite authors don’t write fast enough. The way around that is to find new authors to love. At the library, we have the tools to help you do exactly that.