Bingeworthy British Television book...ON SALE!

Binge-britUpdate 12/3/2019: Big thanks to everyone who purchased a copy of the book this past week. The price has reverted to $19.99, but the deal of you buying a book at Amazon, posting a review, and then letting me know about it, will always result in me sending you a second book absolutely free! Thanks!

Hello, everyone!

Please bear with me as I write one more blatantly advertorial post for my and Jackie Bailey's book Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can't Stop Watching.We're so proud of the book and the good reviews it has been getting, and if you're at all a British TV fan (or know someone else who is) we want to make the book even more easily available. We also just learned we were named a Finalist in the category of Best Cover Design--Non-Fiction at American Book, so rest assured: it's an attractive book to own and to give!

So: The announcement is that, if you are doing any shopping on Amazon this Black Friday through Cyber Monday, please consider buying a copy of Bingeworthy British Television. For that day only we'll be lowering the price from $19.99 to...I'm not sure yet. But it will definitely be cheaper than 19.99. AND our earlier deal applies--if you buy a copy for yourself and review it at Amazon (and you are free to review it honestly--even if the book turns out to be not your cuppa--anything you have to say about it will help us if we ever write a new edition) and shoot me an email at [email protected]--or comment at The Great British TV Site on any post to let me know you've reviewed it, I'll get in contact with you and send you a second copy absolutely free!!

As long as I'm asking for stuff I'll ask this as well: Please consider linking to this post on your blogs or social media to help us spread the news about these deals. We can also be found anytime at The Great British TV Site, or on Facebook at @GreatBritishTV if you can link to any of those sites.

Last but not least we're currently part of a huge giveaway over at the wonderful period television site Willow and Thatch. If buying the book just isn't in your budget this year, consider entering that contest to possibly win a free copy (or tons of other neat prizes), and please spread the word about that giveaway as well.

Thanks so much. End advertorial, and next week we'll get back to other nonfiction titles. And: Happy Thanksgiving. May you and yours be safe and content.

Nonfiction collection development webinar: it's like you can be there!

So last week I had the honor to be part of a webinar sponsored (at least in part) by the Indianhead Federated Library System and the Outagamie Waupaca Library System.

It was so much fun!

Well, at least, it was fun after I figured out that my home Internet connection wasn't going to be working in time for me to join the webinar (not my fault; phone/Internet company TDS's fault) and got myself to the library. And, once there, figured out that I wasn't going to be able to connect to the webinar using the library's heavily trafficked wireless or my cell phone, which was getting no reception in the basement room I was in. But, I went and begged an ethernet cable and a connection to the good old-fashioned plug-in-the-wall DSL, and, bang, it was just that easy, I could join my co-presenters for our webinar on Adult Selection Tools for Collection Development.

Sigh. Thank God for the library, and thank God for the kind librarian who gave me an ethernet cable. Seriously, we all know libraries are the best, right?

Of course we do.

Anyway, many thanks to the coordinators who handled my technical difficulties with admirably cool heads, and my co-presenters, who just went ahead presenting until I could get my act together.

I'm not sure the recorded presentation is available unless you were signed up for the webinar. But I did want to point out that my presentation pages (and links to many title awareness and collection development tools, as well as to other nonfiction collection development presentations on the web that I found helpful) are all available over in the right sidebar, under the title "Nonfiction Collection Development (IFLS)." Go ahead and click away and see if there's anything there you can use!

Edward McClelland's How to Speak Midwestern.

So here's what I got read in Edward McClelland's book How to Speak Midwestern:

The intro;

the chapter on North Central (arguably my region, although I might also qualify as Inland North accents;

and the "Wisconsin" portion of the glossary.

I should just have read the whole thing (I still might)--it's only 147 pages long.

Speak midwesternI particularly liked the bits where McClelland explained why Midwesterners often think they "don't have an accent,"* although of course they do. And I really, really enjoyed this bit, about how Midwesterners mostly like to do their criticizing passive-aggressively:

"In the Midwest, you're never certain whether you're being complimented or insulted. Midwesterners don't like to sound critical or hurt anyone's feelings, so we've developed code words that allow us to avoid stating an opinion altogether. The most important words to know are 'interesting' and 'different.' If something has merit, but you don't personally care for it, it's 'interesting.'

'What do you think of the Vikings' new stadium?'

'It's interesting.'

(The story is told of a consultant who presented an idea to a group of Minnesotans, and thought it was going over well because they all said it was interesting.)

'What do you think of the mural under the Wilson Avenue viaduct of three dolphins copulating with the Queen of the Nile?'

'It's pretty different.'" (p. 15.)

I've never thought of myself as a particularly passive-aggressive person, but I think I've used both "interesting" and "different" several times in conversation this past week alone.

I didn't read the whole thing, and I don't know that all of it rang true to me, but it's a good solid effort on an interesting topic. Do check it out sometime.

*I know I have an accent because a few years back my college roommate and I got together after not seeing each other for a few years. She had moved to Virginia and was back for a visit, and when we each got out of our cars and I shouted an exuberant greeting, she tipped her head to the side and smiled at me and said, "Oh, the accent..." I do try to sit on the accent sometimes but when I yell exuberantly it tends to come out.



More reading about TV: The Platinum Age of Television and The Daily Show (The Book).

Yup, I've decided that watching too much TV is not enough of a time suck for me, I'm also going to read books about TV. Or, I should say, MORE books about TV.

Platinum age of televisionFirst up today is a book I really, really loved: David Bianculli's The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. I read this sucker from cover to cover and now I want to just completely throw in the towel, stop going outside, and just watch TV all the time. Bianculli, a longtime TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air, clearly knows his stuff (he's been writing TV criticism since 1975) and organizes his book into genre-ready sections, from soap operas and crime to family sitcoms and workplace sitcoms to animation and spies. Each section includes 3-8 page (or so) descriptions of five or so seminal programs in each genre (ostensibly charting the "evolution" of each genre, but I didn't read the segments in order, so that was lost on me), and the sections are written to be both informative and enticing. I've tried to write both literary and TV criticism, and trust me, it's hard to write program and book summaries that give you a flavor of the piece AND make you want to see or read it, all while trying not to give too much away. Take, for instance, "The Wire," which I have thought about watching, but never quite got around to. But now I think I might have to make time:

"The first season of 'The Wire' seemed to be a straightforward police investigation into drugs, a longer version of the sort of case [David] Simon might have dramatized on NBC's 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' the series that pulled the former Baltimore police reporter into the orbit of television production. But as the season went on, we learned at least as much about the drug kingpins and street hustlers as we did about the cops. We got to know the detectives all right, especially Dominic West's Jimmy McNulty and Wendell Pierce's Bunk Moreland. But we also got to know, quite well, the drug kingpin Stringer Bell (played by Idris Elba), the street-level drug dealer Wallace (Michael B. Jordan), and the opportunistic street thief Omar Little (Michael K. Williams). Breaks in the case were made methodically and slowly, and given the bureaucracy and obstacles in place, the odds were against them making much of a dent at all." (p. 456.)

He also includes interviews with a lot of TV's big names (Matt Groening, Carol Burnett, Vince Gilligan, Louis C.K., Carl Reiner...they're all listed on the back) and a short history/description of each drama. Although Kirkus Reviews disagreed with me, I thought this was a highly readable book, and I was glad that a critic dispensed with the nonsense of rating programs by stars, numbers, or even by ranking them. I did, however, think this book had a terrible title: the "platinum age" bit and the long subtitle made it sound more dry and academic than it actually was. Give this one a read if you're interested in the writers and creators of some great TV, not to mention the TV programs themselves.

Daily showMy second TV read this month was The Daily Show (The Book), but I didn't enjoy that one nearly as much. It's a straight-up oral history, and there was very little context given for the conversations quoted. Plus, it was just more than I really needed to know about "The Daily Show." I only got to watch it online periodically when Jon Stewart was in charge (and I really miss that version, I'll admit) and I haven't seen it at all since Trevor Noah took over. This just wasn't the right book for me right now. Here's an example of how it just jumped right in, on the opening pages:

"JON STEWART, The Daily Show host, 1999-2015

At the time, I was obviously making my mark in such films as "Wishful Thinking" and "Dancing with Architecture" or "Dancing about"...Oh, no. They ended up calling it something else. "Playing by Heart," I think it was.

JAMES DIXON, manager for Jon Stewart, 1987-

After The Jon Stewart Show was canceled by Paramount, he was...not burnt on being on TV, but he wanted to kind of wet his feet with film. We had this nice deal with Harvey Weinstein, and Jon was down in Tribeca and he's getting to kiss Angelina Jolie in films."

Then there was another paragraph from Jon, about then working on "The Larry Sanders Show," and then the next speaker is Judd Apatow*:

"JUDD APATOW, standup comic, writer, director

Garry [Shandling] had the foresight to write about the talk show wars and this very subtle aspect of it, which is, you support a young comedian and slowly the network likes him more than it likes you, and then that younger guy, in ways that he understands and might not understand, slowly pushes you out of your job. Similar to what really happened with [Jay] Leno and Conan [O'Brien] and [Jimmy] Fallon. So there was a moment when Garry was considering continuing The Larry Sanders Show, and changing the name of it to The John Stewart Show, with an H so it wouldn't really be Jon. Everyone was excited about it for a while, but it went away." (pp. 1-2.)

The whole book was like that. It was ordered chronologically to cover the beginning of the show through Jon Stewart's retirement, but it was just too frenetic, with random people popping up throughout. I like oral histories, but I like them with a bit more organization and contextual information throughout. I basically skim-read this one, jumped about a bit, and then called it a day.

Two very different reads, and unless you're a hardcore (and I do mean hardcore) "The Daily Show" fan, I'd go with the Bianculli. Enjoy the rest of your week, all. I'm off to watch some TV.

*Yeah, it did not help this book's case that one of its first speakers was Judd Apatow. I am no Judd Apatow fan. I mean, yeah, Judd, sometimes your movies are funny and you know enough to keep casting Paul Rudd, but jeez, keep them to ninety minutes, would you? None of them are all that complicated plot-wise. Thanks much.

Nonfiction November: Be the Expert

Thank goodness some nonfiction book bloggers have had their acts sufficiently together to host Nonfiction November. It's such a great idea, and every year I'm late to the party, because, well, I'm always late to parties (if I go at all). If you haven't seen any NN posts yet, please check some out. It's great stuff.

The discussion this week is called Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert, and I first came across it when reading Unruly Reader's post about aviation books. (A great post, by the way, and even better comments discussion.) So I thought, I'm not really an expert on anything and I don't have the time or energy to become an expert at anything (and my TBR pile is too huge to even think about asking for expert recommendations and adding to it), so I should probably leave that discussion around. But then I looked around my house and noticed that I have three, count 'em, three books on the go (and a fourth on hold at the library) about...television. So I may not be an expert, but three or four books on the subject seems like a good start for now.

First, a word about me and television. One of my family members is not really a fan of television, and although she never tells me to get off my butt and turn it off (or turn off the CRjrs' PBS Kids, which, not to put too fine a point on it, was the only thing between me and total insanity this past summer, when the CRjrs' sole entertainment was pushing each other down every. single. minute.), I have gathered from her that TV really is a big waste of time. Finally I just had to tell her, okay, but here's the thing: I LOVE TV. I always have and I do and I think I always will. I am the kid who avoided working on the farm by telling my mother I had to do homework, and then I snuck into my brother's room to watch Remington Steele.* I love television almost as much as I love reading. And that, as I think you know, is a lot A LOT. It's like I have two best friends: the solid one who is always there for me and knows just what I need and yet still manages to make me laugh, often. That friend of mine is named Reading. And then I have my other friend, the slightly flashier one who is almost always tons of fun and who isn't always good for me but who I love anyway. That friend is named Television.**

I come from a family of workers and producers, so it has been a long lifetime for me trying to become comfortable with the fact that, for the most part, I am a consumer. I can churn through work with the best of them but for my money? NOTHING is better than reading a book or watching a truly great TV show. It's just the way it is.

So you can see how I ended up with three books about TV in my house at one time. (Incidentally, how's that for having my cake and eating it too? Reading books about TV? So awesome.) And here they are:

Tv the book1. TV (The Book): Two Experts* Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. I'm really enjoying this one. The general theme is that these two longtime TV critics used some sort of "objective" number scale to rank what they feel are the greatest (American) TV shows of all time. I don't care at all about their rankings but they generally do a nice job of summarizing a wide variety of television programs, without giving too many spoilers away. For instance: I can quite safely state that I have never had a desire to watch one episode of the show "Homicide: Life on the Street." But after reading these guys' description of it? I totally want to watch it. The book also includes nice sidebars with further rankings, like "Best Mustaches" (the winner there is Tom Selleck on "Magnum, P.I.," of course). I don't always agree with their choices, because I think their rankings and choices reflect their stereotypical male tastes (their top five shows are "The Simpsons," "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Cheers," and "Breaking Bad." Now, I know women watch and enjoy those shows, but to me that list still reads like it was written by two men. Which it was.

Still. A fun compendium.

Seinfeldia2. Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. I'm actually only partway through this one. It's a serviceable read and I'm enjoying the behind-the-scenes tidbits about how the show started, was cast, and the various personalities that made it all happen. And the author (a former writer for Entertainment Weekly) seems to have done her homework on all the interviews and resources she could find, as well as an impressive interview list with many of the show's key writers and other creators (among them Peter Mehlman, Alec Berg, Spike Feresten, Carol Leifer, and many more). But it does not appear that she got to interview any of the four main stars personally? I know. I suppose none of them have the time or inclination to grant interviews, but it still makes this book feel like it was written at a bit of a remove. Although it's getting terrific reviews. I should probably reserve judgment until I've read the whole thing. I was glad to see that a woman wrote this book, though; have you ever read what a sausage fest most TV and movie reviewing is? Jesus.

Play all3. Play All: A Bingewatcher's Notebook, by Clive James. This book, on the other hand, is annoying the piss out of me.

First of all, it's boring. The introduction is titled "Title Sequence," and here's a sample: "There will always be formal scholarly work to be done. But it will be done best if contact is not lost with the tone of common speech in which habitual consumers discuss the product; a tone not all that far from the voluble congeniality with which they pass the popcorn. Binge-watching is a night out, even when you spend the whole day in. It's a way of being." (p. 11.)

Okay, whatever. It's good writing but it's not exactly prose that you just blow through because it's so fun. I should give James a pass; he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and points out himself that, while drugs are currently keeping the disease in check, he's still facing his mortality. And I'm sure he knows his stuff; he wrote a weekly column about television for the London Observer from 1972 to 1982. But I'm just not enjoying the book. For one thing, it's another sausage-fest of programs: those that get the most attention include "Band of Brothers," "The Sopranos," "Game of Thrones" (I know GoT is popular with women, too, but something about it still says GUY to me), "Mad Men," and "Breaking Bad" (although it doesn't read like he's a very big fan of "Breaking Bad"). Secondly, he blows spoilers all over the place where he wouldn't even have to. I don't even particularly mind spoilers but the way he uses them doesn't even seem necessary (he really lets a big one out for "The Wire," which annoyed me somewhat, because I'd still like to watch that one without knowing about the plot point he's told me). Definitely not a book I need to binge-read.

So that's what I've got home. And now I just heard about this new one, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. Anyone read any of these books? And, of course, here's the real question: Seen anything good on TV lately?

Have a very happy Thanksgiving, all.

*Eventually my older brother, not as dedicated to shirking work as I always have been, noticed the blue glow from his room when our mother was out working in the garden alone, and ratted me out for not doing my homework. Yes, it was not nice to make my mother work alone while I watched TV. But, in my defense: it was REMINGTON STEELE.

**If I really wanted to beat this analogy into the ground (and I do) I would say I have a third friend, like a good guy friend who I have a little crush on but who isn't interested in me in that way. That friend is named Movies. Movies are great but are just a little more standoffish (sometimes you have to leave your house to see them, after all) than books and TV.

***OOooh, extra points, because "expert" appears right in this title!

Welcome to readers of the Readers' Advisor Online blog.

Hello, all. I'm still trying to get caught up and regular posting will not resume here for a while, but I wanted to explain the posts that I published here last week. They are all posts from the Readers' Advisor Online blog, which I have co-written with Cindy Orr for the last nine years or so. ABC-CLIO, the sponsor of the blog, has decided to stop publishing it, and the site will no longer be available after June 30. We've written a lot of content in the last month about readers' advisory services and how to keep up with forthcoming title lists, so I thought I would archive those posts here for as long as I could! Those posts are:

Goodbye from all of us at the Readers' Advisor Online blog (Including a list of good reading-related websites to check for book news)

Using Feedly to watch for book and reading news

Cindy Orr's excellent and detailed How we compose the New, Noteworthy, and No-Brainer Lists

And our rallying cry for the importance of RA services, education, and training at A Parting Message: Pass It On!

Thanks for visiting. We're sad about losing the Readers' Advisor Online blog, of course, but here's to moving on to bigger and better things! Or maybe a nap. I haven't decided yet.

A Parting Message: Pass It On! (Originally posted at the Readers' Advisor Online blog.)

Hi everyone, Since this is our last day for the blog (see here if you didn't get the word before), I'm going to take advantage of the bully pulpit to air my opinion, for what it's worth, about the state of Readers' Advisory service now and in the future. Frankly, I'm worried, guys. Follow along with me for a minute:

  • Surveys show that people believe that books are the library's brand.
  • Readers often have trouble finding good books to read. If you don't believe that's important, ponder why Amazon paid big bucks for Goodreads and iBooks did the same for BookLamp, two recommendation services.
  • Librarians should be THE experts on helping library patrons find just the right books to read. After all, that's our brand.
  • Suggesting good books to read is not just a knack that some people have. Readers' advisory skills can absolutely be taught.


  • Many library schools don't even offer classes in readers' advisory service.
  • Those that do usually use adjunct professors---practitioners like you---to teach the courses.
  • Tenure track library school professors have largely ignored the entire field. This includes reading research, which is usually done in other departments of the university, and is producing some really exciting finds about what reading does to the brain.
  • Many of the best known library readers' advisors are retired now, or are approaching retirement age.
  • We definitely need younger librarians who will take the RA baton and carry it into the future.

The problem is not that there are not great readers' advisors out there. I know there are. You know there are. They're you. I've run into hundreds of you and have been impressed with your knowledge. But it seems like the same people are tapped to speak, write articles, and teach. If we want to keep the service going, we really need a wider range of librarians to step up and share their expertise publicly. And we really, really need library schools to step up and teach the subject. Since that hasn't happened---in fact, most of the professors who used to teach the subject are also retired---I have a suggestion for a solution. If library directors across the nation would get together and sign a petition to library school deans demanding that they research, publish, and teach this topic to their students, because these are skills librarians need in order to be hired, I hope that it would make a difference. (I'm probably naive to suggest this. Oh well.) And, in the meantime, we practitioners need to continue to carry the torch. Please find some RA knowledge that you can share. You know you have the expertise. You just need a little courage. Here are some suggestions, but just share in whatever way makes you happy:

  • Do whatever you can to make sure your own library is dedicated to reader services at all levels, including learning to read and serving all ages and demographic groups of readers.
  • Use your personal power to make sure RA training happens in your library, even if you have to do it yourself---even if you don't think you are an expert. The best way to learn a subject is to teach it. ABC-CLIO's Genreflecting, Real Stories, and other series are great resources for genre and RA knowledge. NoveList has great training materials to get you started.
  • Propose RA programs to your state organization's conferences.
  • Write articles on the subject. The Library Writer's Blog might help you find an outlet for your pieces.
  • Start an RA blog, either at your library or by yourself, or with friends.
  • Propose a course to your local library school if they don't already offer it.
  • Even if your local library school offers an RA class, propose an additional one with a different slant. These classes fill up, and adjunct professors are extremely cheap, so it's in the school's interests to offer them. The going rate, just so you know, is around $5,000 for a class, which is a lot of money for most practitioners, but incredibly cost effective for a university. If you don't have a local library school, many schools offer their subjects online, so you could teach remotely.
  • Network. Find other librarians who are passionate about RA and correspond regularly. There's Fiction_L, of course, and the community built around Early Word, but there are other places too. ALA has a committee---RUSA's RA Research and Trends Committee. Volunteer to serve. You have to join RUSA, but this committee does its work remotely, so you wouldn't have to travel. Or you could volunteer to serve on an awards committee like Notable Books or The Reading List, or many others.
  • Support other RA librarians. Some have blogs, like Lesa Holstine's Book Critiques, Sarah Johnson's Reading the Past, Becky Spratford's RA for All and RA for All: Horror, Citizen Reader, the nonfiction blog by Sarah Statz Cords, Megan McArdle's Genrify, and Nancy Pearl, just to mention a few.
  • Keep track of what other libraries are doing. Here are just a few great library blogs: Shelf Talk, Blogging for a Good Book, Biblio File.
  • Follow the industry sources that support RA, like Booklist, Library Journal, the RUSA Quarterly, and ALA Publishing's and Libraries Unlimited's RA series of books.
  • I know this seems like a lot to keep up with, but you can use an RSS feed aggregator to make it easier. It's not difficult at all. Here's how to use Feedly, for instance. And, honestly, since not so much has been written about the subject, this is one area where you could conceivably read everything there is and be a real expert.
  • So please pass it on, folks! We really do need your expertise! Cindy P.S. This site will be gone soon, so if you are interested in keeping any of the content, you'll need to copy it right now. A few of our last posts will live on at Sarah Statz Cords's blog Citizen Reader (check tomorrow for direct links), but this blog will be unavailable after June 30.

Originally published at the Readers' Advisor Online blog, May 15, 2016:

How we compose the New, Noteworthy, and No-Brainer Lists (post from Readers' Advisor Online).

We were very sad to announce, a couple of weeks ago now, that as of May 16, we will no longer be publishing the Readers' Advisor Online blog.

In light of this news, someone asked in the comments for tips on how we compile the weekly New, Noteworthy, and No-Brainer forthcoming fiction and nonfiction title lists. This was an excellent question, and we're glad to let you behind the curtain to see how we do that. (And please note: most of this information comes from the true mastermind behind these lists: Cindy Orr.)

First: Get your magic wand. Second: Wave it over the computer. Third: Shout, "Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo, new titles, list yourself out, do!"

I know. How great would that be? Unfortunately there is no magical secret to compiling these lists. It's not really hard work, but it is time-consuming. There's a bit more to it than this, but the general idea is that we check these sources for lists of forthcoming titles:

Publishers' Weekly On-Sale Calendar - This site has both an adult and children's version, and lists books that have at least a 50,000 copy print run. Keep checking back, as they tend to update several months at a time.

LJ PrePub Alert - Definitely worth subscribing to. The great Barbara Hoffert updates her column every week with noteworthy and hot books that will be published in about six months. She also annotates each title to tell you why she's including it. Sample column here.

Barnes and Noble "Coming Soon" Books page - Barnes and Noble's Coming Soon is very handy because they list the books of each week and those sorted first are the top sellers.

Amazon Advanced Search - Choose the following - Condition: New; Format: Hardcover; Language: English; Pub Date: During, then choose your month and year; Sort Books By: Bestselling. This won't get you everything because they only allow one format choice at a time, but Hardcover is probably the best bet. When you search Paperback it doesn't discern between reprints and originals.

Bookreporter's "Coming Soon" - A monthly list from a bookseller's point of view.

IndieNext - Handpicked titles from independent booksellers. They also have free shelftalkers that you can print out and use.

Edelweiss - A site all librarians should know about. Here you can request free digital Advanced Reading Copies and vote for the Library Reads Picks, but it also serves as a place where publishers' catalogs are posted. Join (it's free), (be sure to pick Library as your organization type). Log in. Then use Advanced Search. Choose Publication Date: Frontlist; Publisher: Use the CTRL key to select the publishers you want to search. (Do at minimum the Big Five: Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins, but you'll see many more that you'll want to include.) Press Advanced Search, and when the titles come up, choose Filter and then Publication Date and choose the month you're interested in.

These are all free sources, so if you want to keep a comprehensive list going of forthcoming titles, it's largely a matter of checking those sources and dumping the titles into a blog, Word document, spreadsheet, or any other way you may want to keep track. And if this is all too much for you, you might subscribe to Early Word's less comprehensive, but still useful feature Titles to Know and Recommend.

Questions? Do you have any favorite sources for learning about forthcoming titles? Let us know in the comments!

(Originally posted at the Readers' Advisor Online blog, May 10, 2016.

Using Feedly to watch for book and reading news (orginally posted at the Readers' Advisor Online blog).

Last week we made the announcement that the Readers' Advisor Online blog will cease publication as of May 15. Please read the full announcement here.

We of course are very sad about this turn of events, but now is the time to look forward by looking back to consider some of the ways we compiled this blog. One of my favorite tools to use is the RSS reader/aggregator Feedly: a service which allows you to subscribe to various websites and blogs and their feeds, and to scan a lot of online article headlines at once.

Perhaps the best way to learn Feedly is the same way I have learned to do any number of small home improvement projects: by watching a YouTube video!* I like this one: Productivity Tuesday: Feedly RSS Reader.

The basic idea is, you find blogs and websites that often have a lot of good reading and book and publishing headlines, you start a Feedly account, and then, within Feedly, you subscribe to those news sources. Then, every day, you can just go to Feedly and quickly skim all the news headlines from your favorite blogs and websites. If a headline catches your eye, just click on it, and you'll go directly to the article in question. Very handy! If you're looking for blogs and websites to get you started, please consider the list of pages that we provided in our goodbye post. Those are some of our most useful sites for all the latest reading news.

So: go forth and Feedly! A full disclosure here: I am terrible at using technology and technological tools (this is Sarah talking, not Cindy--Cindy's way more on top of tech than I am), and I LOVE Feedly. It's easy to use and super helpful. So do give it a try, and let us know in the comments if you have questions or another service that you use to keep on top of Internet news.

*Thank you, YouTube, for teaching me how to cut carpet tiles to fit uneven walls. I am forever grateful.

Originally posted at the Readers' Advisor Online blog, May 4, 2016.

Goodbye from all of us at the Readers' Advisor Online blog (post from the Readers' Advisor Online blog).

“Erica Jong: When Male Authors Write about Love They Are Praised; When Women Do the Same, They Risk Being Ghettoized”

So opened our Readers’ Advisory Online blog on June 22, 2007. That was not actually our first post—we changed blogging platforms early in our history and lost some of our first posts—but this is one of the earliest posts we have archived. And it’s a doozy; fascinating (if disappointing) to see that discussions about gender and authorship were raging long before the VIDA Count ever started putting hard-and-fast numbers on the phenomenon of women’s voices not being well-represented in modern literature. And of course such discussions were everywhere before 2007. Every day that passes makes all of our discussions, book and otherwise, part of one big cultural archaeological dig.

But why are we waxing nostalgic today? Well, because it is time to announce that as of May 15, 2016, ABC-CLIO will no longer be sponsoring or publishing the Readers’ Advisor Online blog. The reasons for this decision are many, and include but are not limited to variables such as time and resources, but in the end what Cindy and I want to express most can be mostly expressed in two words: Thank you.

Thank you to publishers ABC-CLIO and Libraries Unlimited, supporting us and RA workers for so many years. These publishers have created some of the very best readers’ advisory and library reference tools in the market, and their dedication to publishing this blog and resource for nearly a decade is inspiring in an online world where blogs often come and go in a matter of months.

Thank you to the many librarians, writers, and readers who wrote for us—from articles about reading trends, to conference reports, to comments and other articles that made our blog stronger.

And thank you, THANK YOU, to our many readers, out there perusing our weekly “RA Run Downs” and our “New, Noteworthy, and No-Brainer” forthcoming title lists. For years now we have labored with you—the advisors, the librarians, the booksellers, the library pages, the masters’ degree students, the teachers, the readers—to find the best reading headlines, the most exciting news about new titles, the most timely conference and professional development reports. And we felt great about it, because we know that you took our posts and used them to help your colleagues, patrons, and friends and family members to find out more about what they wanted to read, listen to, and watch. It has been, believe us, our very great pleasure.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to say that now there is an opportunity for someone else—perhaps RUSA, perhaps a library, or maybe even any number of personal bloggers—to publish a similar resource. At the end of this article, we will list a number of other websites and resources that we use to write this blog, in the hopes that others will somehow carry on this work. Because we know our audience, and we know that you are all people who in some way or another have chosen professions that are all about helping others, particularly to knowledge. We know that many of you will, in one way or another, step up to offer great reading resources to others.

Thank you all for a great run! Cindy Orr and Sarah Statz Cords

Suggested resources:

Cindy Orr published the title Crash Course in Readers’ Advisory at the end of 2014, and you would be hard pressed to find a more valuable resource on the subject. In addition to taking you through the nuts and bolts of advising readers, she provides a wealth of information and lists of resources where readers and librarians can look to increase their title awareness and overall knowledge of readers and reading material. Libraries Unlimited continues to publish titles in its definitive Genreflecting series. In addition to the most recent edition of Genreflecting (the 7th), which provides an overview of genres, representative titles in those genres, and lists of suggested titles and read-alikes, you may wish to check out such titles as Michael Pawuk’s and David Serchay’s forthcoming Graphic Novels II and Susan Fichtelberg’s second edition of Encountering Enchantment: A Guide to Speculative Fiction for Teens.

We will be publishing the RA Run Down and the New and Noteworthy lists until May 15. But please do also check out these blogs that we often consult. And do you have favorite blogs or online news sources for reading and title awareness news? Please let us know about them in the comments!

Citizen Reader,

Comic Book Resources,

Digital Book World,


Fiction-L, a listserv for all librarians and readers’ advisors in particular,

A Library Writer’s Blog,

Publishing Perspectives,

RA for All,

Reading the Past,

Shelf Awareness,


Originally published at the Readers' Advisor Online blog, April 29th, 2016.

Blowing the lid off nookie: Much Ado About Loving

Like all boring old married people, Mr. CR and I share certain phrases and words to use as conversational shorthand. One of our most frequently used phrases is "Thanks for blowing the lid off nookie." This in-joke comes from a line uttered by Albert Brooks in the awesome movie Broadcast News, but I am not going to explain its context any further; you'll just have to go watch the movie.* For our purposes here I can explain the phrase as meaning (to us), well, thanks for stating the painfully obvious. I'll illustrate:

CR: Taibbi just wrote another article about Donald Trump loving attention.

Mr. CR: Wow, he really blew the lid off nookie with that one.

This phrase also sums up how I feel about the small essay/correspondence collection Much Ado About Loving, co-written by Jack Murnighan** and Maura Kelly. What the authors did here was look at the subject of romantic relationships by comparing their own experiences with those found in literature. I was so primed to like this book. I like books about books; I like books about relationships; I love collections of correspondence and back-and-forth essays.

I did not really like this book.

I mean, it was okay. And the premise was kind of fun. I enjoyed reading about books (a lot of which I haven't read--classics like The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Light in August, The Magic Mountain, etc.) through the lens of the relationships among their characters. But when it came time to actually glean relationship insights from these books (and from Murnighan and Kelly), I was underwhelmed.

Here's what I learn from Murnighan, by way of Tolstoy's War and Peace and the character of Natasha:

"This is the effet joie de vivre has on the people around you: They share in it, feeling more engaged, more alive and vital, like crocuses rising up to see the sun. When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the center of every constellation, and people want to be near you...Women like this, women who are really alive, are the most captivating of all; they are making the most out of living, and they help you do it, too." (pp. 85-86.)

And here's Murnighan again, on reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and noting that Miller is "pretty much all about un-repression." He also has this to say, on how everyone can enjoy sex more:

"I suppose it's not surprising that many women don't realize the degree to which the simple fact of loving sex can make the act great for both parties." (p. 110.)***

So, here's what we've learned for relationships, particularly the man's advice to women: Be charming, and have a lot of joie de vivre, and oh yeah, love sex. To which I say: well, thanks, Jack Murnighan. You really blew the lid off nookie with that one.

*I will stop at nothing to get everyone, everywhere, to watch the movie "Broadcast News."

**Of Beowulf on the Beach fame (which I actually liked).

***By the way, women totally realize this (making it happen, always, can be a challenge, especially after having all that joie de vivre, which is exhausting), but thanks for assuming we're all idiots.

Holiday Book Buying Guide 2015: For the Anglophile in your life

Know any Anglophiles? You know, your friend who watches more British TV than she does American, and (largely as a result of that) clicks on all the royal family linkbait she comes across?*

Well, if you need a gift for an Anglophile, you could go more wrong than buying Fraser McAlpine's fun pop culture/reference guide Stuff Brits Like. In short chapters McAlpine covers a wide variety of subjects of interest to those with an interest in all things British: Pedantry, Talking About the Weather, Apologizing Needlessly, Sarcasm**, the National Health Service, Dunking Biscuits, and many, many more. It's engagingly written (as seen in this chapter on "Reality TV"):

"It's bubble-popping time! A certain number of people may be interested in reading a book about British culture because they believe the world is going to aitch-ee-double-hockeysticks in a handcart and entertainment media are throwing vacuous nonentities out there as hard and as fast as they can and it's the end of civilization as we know it unless the British--with their tradition of theater and literature and thinking hard about stuff--have the key to making everything okay. Surely they won't have fallen prey to the base demands of reality TV? Surely they've seen through the giddy parade of desperate egos and stuck to watching BBC dramatizations of the lives of prominent scientists, starring Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston? Surely? Please?

Sorry. That hasn't happened. I mean yes, Benedict Cumberbatch has made those dramas, that's still a thing, but the Brits are as dazzled by reality TV as anyone." (p. 160.)

It's also got loads of pop culture references, to British music, films, and television shows that any Anglophile worth their salt will simply drool over.

So do you know anyone who reads all British books and watches all British TV and whose crushes are exclusively Brit stars like Tom Hardy and James McAvoy? Buy them this book, and Bob's your uncle***, they'll love you forever.

*I may or may not be describing myself.

**You can see why I love these people.

***You'll know what I'm saying if you're an Anglophile.

Conferences, reference books, RA training, oh my!

Just a quick repeat of my post about ALA Annual from last week.

If by any chance you're a librarian type, and you're attending the ALA Annual conference this week in San Francisco, I wanted to reiterate my offer of "Buy a Book--Get Email Training!" The deal is simple: Buy a book from the Real Stories series of readers' guides* (books designed to help you find NONfiction books that your patrons might enjoy), I'll offer you a free session of RA training (your choice: general readers' advisory or nonfiction-specific) over email. We can discuss ways to widen your RA services, put together compelling nonfiction booklists, find great title awareness websites, anything!

So please do consider stopping by the ABC-CLIO booth (#814) and looking at the books. All you have to do is buy a book from the Real Stories series, either at the conference, or, if you're not going, buy one through an online bookstore or the ABC-CLIO site, through the end of June. Then just contact me at [email protected], tell me what book you bought**, and we'll use that as a jumping-off point for an email conversation/training about nonfiction reading, readers, and RA.

What do you say? A great reference book and an email training. That's got Google beat, right?

*Full disclosure: I'm the current series editor for these books, so of course I might be biased. But they really are great.

**I'm not offering this through the publisher, or the marketing department, or anything like that. So no proof or receipts required; just tell me you bought the book and we'll be good to go. Gotta love the honor system; it really cuts down on paperwork.

Have you bought any fun reference books lately?

Come on. If you're a librarian type, you remember buying actual books to use as reference sources, right?

Wasn't that fun? Sometimes it was just thrilling to buy a new reference tool that you could actually hold, leaf through, refer to, mark up, etc. Well, if you're a librarian type, and you're going to ALA Annual in a couple of weeks in San Francisco, I'm here to ask you to consider buying a reference book. Have you seen our Libraries Unlimited series of Real Stories readers' guides? I'm the current series editor, so I'm biased, but these are great books. They break up nonfiction books into more digestible chunks of genres, types, and subject interests; they provide ready-made reading lists and book group title suggestions; they can help serve as training tools by helping you to learn big names in the nonfiction writing biz; and they're just a lot of fun to read and use.

I know there's no budget for it. I know that anyone with an Internet connection can Google up any number of free booklists. But still--I'd ask you to consider any one of these titles. If you want to see them or have questions, and you'll be in San Francisco, consider stopping by the ABC-CLIO booth (#814) and looking at them. I'll even sweeten the deal--buy any one of the books on the list I've linked to above, and I'll offer you a free email consultation/conversation about nonfiction RA, books, and ways to train your staff or create your own nonfiction booklists and displays.

All you have to do is buy a book from the Real Stories series, either at the conference, or, if you're not going, buy one through an online bookstore or the ABC-CLIO site, through the end of June. Then just contact me at [email protected], tell me what book you bought*, and we'll use that as a jumping-off point for an email conversation/training about nonfiction reading, readers, and RA.

What do you say? A great reference book and an email training. That's got Google beat, right?

*I'm not offering this through the publisher, or the marketing department, or anything like that. So no proof or receipts required; just tell me you bought the book and we'll be good to go. Gotta love the honor system; it really cuts down on paperwork.

A tale of two titles.

So here's two books sitting on my nightstand right now: What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios that Keep Scientists Up at Night (edited by John Brockman), and Retrain Your Anxious Brain: Practical and Effective Tools to Conquer Anxiety (by John Tsilimparis).

Yes, perhaps not the best concurrent reading choices. But it turns out I'm really, really enjoying the What Should We Be Worried About? book, while I haven't really gotten that far retraining my anxious brain. The thing about my anxious brain is that it tends to run in fairly predictable circles: we're all going to die on the highway; health care costs are going to bury us all; the CRjr's are going to fall off playground equipment and directly onto their heads. Thinking about that sort of shit (plus whatever doctor or dentist appointments anyone has coming up) makes me crazy.

John Brockman's book, on the other hand? Well, that's just a bunch of super-smart people worrying about the really BIG stuff. Here's some chapter titles to illustrate what the contributors think we should be worried about:

"We are in denial about catastrophic risks"

"The fragility of complex systems"

"Are we homogenizing the global view of a normal mind?"

'The mating wars"

"The rise in genomic instability"

Contributors include Charles Seife, Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, Brian Eno, Daniel Goleman, Robert Sapolsky, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and a ton, ton more.

I have yet to read a dull chapter in this thing and although I know it's presenting a lot of big, ugly, doomsday scenarios...but I'm actually using it to fall asleep. For some weird reason it's more calming to me to worry about the big picture. Some of these speculations really make the little stuff (like: why is my back so sore? Do my brakes feel like they're going? What kind of medical help and support are my parents going to start needing? And so on and so forth) seem, well, little.

I know. It makes no sense. If you don't enjoy thinking about worst-case scenarios, the Brockman book might not be for you. It's one of the most interesting things I've read this year, though.

And I'll keep you posted if I have any luck retraining my anxious mind. Training of any kind, either of myself or others, has never been my strong point, so we'll see.

A quick word about the Christian Science Monitor.

Are you reading the Christian Science Monitor?

So yeah, I know newspapers are dead, etc. I used to get our local newspaper, first because I really liked reading a newspaper, at least on Sundays.* As the paper got progressively thinner and crappier, pretty soon I really was just getting it for the grocery store coupons. Now my mom hooks me up with those, so I was able to drop my subscription. I did feel a little bad about that, but you know what? Sadly, I cannot afford to support all the dying industries I used to enjoy.

But in my daily reading of Internet headlines in my work for the Reader's Advisor Online blog, I often come across headlines that I find personally interesting. And those headlines are almost exclusively from the Christian Science Monitor. I find that it typically offers quite balanced, well-written, and very wide-ranging news stories. These are the last three links I clicked on:

"A 'rape glut' on TV: How TV Viewers Can Respond" (I clicked on this because I just read Diana Gabaldon's bestselling novel Outlander and was totally grossed out, and now it's been made into a TV series, and was listed in this article)

"Has Apple's CEO Put a Price Tag on Privacy?"


"How to Make Your Laptop Last Longer"

And that's an entirely typical sample. They also offer book news and book recommendations from readers, great recipes, and a lot of personal finance articles (these, I find, are usually ridiculously simplistic, but they're still somewhat fun to read).

The Monitor used to be published daily in print (I know, because I used to check it in and put it out at the public library, and I never ever bothered to read it, which I still can't believe), and now they publish weekly. God help me, I've often thought of subscribing, and only knowing that I have way too many other things sitting around here going unread has stopped me.

So what does it mean that it's the "Christian Science" Monitor? Well, it was founded in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, who was the founder of the Christian Science religion, and to this day it includes a "religious" article (I come across these often and they're not religious in an unctuous way, so they even do that well) in every daily web edition, but it is not really a religious paper. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about its founding:

"The Monitor's inception was, in part, a response by Eddy to the journalism of her day, which relentlessly covered the sensations and scandals surrounding her new religion with varying degrees of accuracy...

Eddy declared that the Monitor's mission should be "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."

And here's how Wikipedia further describes it: "The paper has been known for avoiding sensationalism, producing a "distinctive brand of nonhysterical journalism"."

Yeah, I can get behind that. Give the Monitor a try.

*Although I freely admit I didn't actually read the news in the newspaper. I read the comics, the lifestyle section (with book reviews, if any), the classifieds, and maybe the local, in that order. I never even read the ads (in fact, I used to just strip them out and toss them, until my roommate said, "Could you save the ads? They're really the only part of the paper I read," which I thought was such a great line, and made me love her all the more).

Must-have for all readers: "The Western Lit Survival Kit"

Mercifully there has been one book throughout the past weeks that I had no problems finishing: Sandra Newman's FANTASTIC The Western Lit Survival Kit: An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner.

And yes, it merits that capitalized FANTASTIC.

Never had time to read the classics? Running out of time to read the classics, and want to know which ones you should read, and why? Well, my friends, this is the book for you. Not only will you get the literary education you thought you might get in high school or college (but didn't), you will get a lot of laughs. Allow me to illustrate:

Recently, publishers have turned to spoon-feeding (Ulysses for Dummies--Extra-Dumb Edition); fear (1001 Books to Read or You'll Die!); and quirk (How Proust can Change Alain de Botton's Income) with some success. Even people who don't want to read the Great Books will read about the Great Books" (p. xi.)

And this, on "Paradise Lost" author John Milton:

"Milton had no sense of humor, wasn't good with women, and had Puritan attitudes toward drinking, theater, sex, and fun in general. So few things in Milton's life are interesting that you could count them on the fingers of one hand and still have enough fingers free to do ten things that are more fun than Milton ever had. However, he did write some of literature's most intellectually ambitious poetry, including the game-changing Paradise Lost." (p. 93.)

And, on Voltaire (about whom I know nothing, although I recognize the name):

"Voltaire has become the flagship writer of the French Enlightenment, although he is not the best writer, or the most radical writer, or the most read writer. It might just be because he has the best pen name. (Take note, Detroit: Is Voltaire not the perfect name for a compact electric car?)...

His downfall was that he was a born gadfly. He could make 'the' sound sarcastic. He could make scratching sound sarcastic. If he wrote a scene in which a priest had sex with a woman, it somehow implied that priests were all sex creeps. Meanwhile, even Voltaire didn't believe this literally. He just couldn't help himself when a gadfly thought came into his head. He was once told, 'No matter what you write, you will never succeed in destroying the Christian religion.' He replied, 'We'll see about that.'" (p. 128.)

I'm not even finding the best quotes for you, but it doesn't matter, because the whole book is just one sparkling little literary biography and bibliography after another. Newman also helpfully lists each author's best known works and gives them number scores based on "Importance," "Accessibility," and "Fun," so you know which works to start with if you do want to start reading through the Western canon.

Or, if you're not up for that? This book will certainly give you enough information and context on the Great Books that you will be able to credibly fake that you have read them. But perhaps most importantly, this is just an effortless read. A "10," as far as I'm concerned, on both Accessibility and Fun.

Skinny Review Week: How They Croaked

Title: How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

What's it all about, briefly? This is a fun, short book (with lots of illustrations) about how a lot of history's most famous people died. The stories here describe the "awful ends of the awfully famous," including Julius Caesar, Elizabeth I, George Washington, Charles Darwin, and many others. This is a book meant for young readers, so the text is simple. I actually got it from my sister, who said her kids loved reading it. She also asked me for suggestions for other such "tweeny" nonfiction reads, which I never got back to her on. (Sorry about that, sis.) For one thing, normally I would have just gone to the shelf of my local library and browsed for her, but that's harder with the two kids; and for another, I have always believed that nonfiction for kids is best found along subject lines more so than author- or writing style-lines. By that I mean there aren't as many big "name" authors of YA or tween nonfiction that I am aware of, and that kids are usually pretty handy at finding nonfiction they want to read based on subjects they are interested in.*

Representative Quote: "On the morning of December 14, 1799, [George] Washington woke up boiling hot and gasping for air. Martha and Tobias Lear, his secretary, immediately sent for the doctor--which was harder than it sounds since they were seventy-five years shy of having a phone and a hundred years short of having a car parked out front. Sending for the doctor meant someone had to hop on a horse and gallop over dirt roads to Alexandria, eight miles away, where Dr. Craik lived." (p. 85.)

The Skinny: A fun read, for kids and adults alike. Always ask what your kids and nieces and nephews are reading--you might find something good for yourself. (Or something helpful for when your library patrons ask for juvenile nonfiction.)

*CRjr is a perfect example of this. Right now he is fascinated with flags, and has a Flags of the World book at home that has kept him occupied for, I'm not kidding, hours. He can't read but we've gone through and said a lot of the country names with him, so now he runs around the house saying "Mali! Guinea! Guinea-Bissau! Liberia!" It's beyond awesome.

How-to nonfiction.

I tend not to blog a lot about informational or how-to nonfiction. This is not because I don't read it, but rather because I feel that any nonfiction you find because you're primarily interested in the subject is, well, usually pretty easy to find by subject. Like anything else, this rule is subject to exceptions. I actually love getting recommendations for things like cookbooks, health books, etc., simply because there are SO MANY of them.

One of the reasons I didn't post as much this week, as a matter of fact, was because it never felt like I got enough time to read or even peruse the informational books I had going, much less the other nonfiction (and I had even less time to blog about it)! So what am I trying to learn about this month? Here's the books I've got around with bookmarks stuck in various places:

Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies, Meri Raffetto

Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler, Jeannette L. Bessinger

Raising a Son, Don Elium and Jeanne Elium

Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition, by David Newman

Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook, by Camilla Saulsbury

To some extent my informational reading always reflects topics I am better at reading about than actually doing. (Just the way I used to read dating manuals because I had no idea how to get a date or go on dates.) Soon it's about the time of the year for me to check out a bunch of gardening books even though I really have no intention of gardening.

How about you. "Read" any good cookbooks lately, or learn anything particularly helpful from a nonfiction book?

A proud moment for the CR family.

Yesterday at the library CRjr picked out...his very first nonfiction choice: Bobcats, by Jennifer L. Marks.

CRjr usually gets one book at the library, and he's pretty good about picking them out himself. Now, by "picking it out," what I mean, of course, is that he grabs something at random off the shelf and goes with it. But he seems to have good luck--he usually plucks a couple off the shelves, and we take whichever one he ends up seeming most interested in.*

Bobcats was a good choice; we've enjoyed it at home a few times since. In case you're wondering, bobcats can weigh from 16 to 30 pounds and live about 12 years in the wild.

CRjr has another library tradition: he always holds his own book on the way home (sometimes we walk there, but most often I walk and he rides in his umbrella stroller, with the handy pouch in the back for my books--CRjr gets one book at a time from the library, for now, but Mama gets as many as she can carry). I'm not real gushy, but I'd be lying if I said it isn't the cutest thing ever.

*And we put the unwanted ones back, in the right places, because once you're a librarian, you're always a librarian.