Category Archives: Booktalking

Tales of Displacement

When I’m craving a good read, the graphic novel is my go-to genre. When done right, the unique illustration and storytelling style of an author can pull you into a narrative before you know it. Here are some noteworthy recent (and in one case, upcoming) titles that may draw you in, too (pun intended).

Hostage is from French-Canadian illustrator Guy Delisle, an adept and efficient storyteller who previously recounted his experiences in lands such as Burma and North Korea. In Hostage, Delisle tells the tale of Christophe André, who was kidnapped while working for Doctors Without Borders near Chechnya in 1997. Delisle’s panels, primarily done in tones of grey, offer a look into the psyche of a man held against his will for 111 days.

In Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, cartoonist Sarah Glidden tells the stories of individuals she meets in the Middle East while bearing witness to the ethical questions the journalist friends she is traveling with face. How far do you go to get the answers you want? At what point does someone else’s story become yours?

Poppies of Iraq, by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim, offers a series of memories about childhood and family in Iraq. Born to a French mother and Iraqi father in the 1950s, Findakly grew up in an environment of political upheaval that began in 1958 when the monarchy was overthrown in a coup. With Iraq in tumult throughout the 1960s, Findakly’s family moved to France in the 1970s. The vignettes in Poppies intersperse sweet and sometimes humorous childhood memories with a look into how life was never the same under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

* Publication date September 5, 2017; ARC obtained from Drawn & Quarterly

The beautiful debut graphic novel by Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, is a moving and highly personal tale of the immigrant experience. The birth of Bui’s child in a California hospital is the catalyst for her look back not only at her refugee journey from Vietnam, via Malaysia, to the United States, but also how her family reached that point of desperation with the rise of communism in the mid-1970s. Painted with washes of red, Bui reminds us that our history follows us wherever we go.

Acclaimed Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire is back following Secret Path with Roughneck. This gritty, fictional story centers on former professional hockey player Derek Ouelette, down and out in his hometown after instigating a violent incident on the ice. Ouelette’s life is once again upended when he is reunited with his sister, who is seeking escape from her abusive boyfriend. Together, the siblings face their shared past and try to find a better way.

Liz Tham is a librarian at the Port Moody Public Library.

How to RA on Instagram

I will be the first person to admit that I am a sucker for a well photographed “readers’ scene” on Instagram. You know that perfectly orchestrated cozy shot of a book next to a succulent or a mug of tea. It’s all about the aesthetic, and frankly for me, the more minimalist the better. And more often than not, I’ll give the photo a “like” and maybe save the image for future reference. (Can we take a minute to appreciate the save/bookmark feature on IG?!) To be honest, this is how I get most of my personal readers’ advisory done – Instagram. It certainly helps when someone comes in and asks “I’m looking for a book, it’s cover is green with a girl on it”.

So let’s talk about Instagram and how libraries are using it, but more importantly how it’s being used for readers’ advisory. Based off my extensive research aka. scrolling through my IG feed, most libraries use their accounts to promote their programs and services. And why not? It’s a great promotional tool and it’s a way to show your programs in action. But in terms of RA methods, various reading campaigns, such as Book Face Fridays (read this nice little piece in the New York Times), are popular ways to attract readers. Furthermore, campaigns provide consistency with a library’s IG content through its context, aesthetic, and schedule. A great example for consistent content is NYPL where almost every day basically has a scheduled theme.

In January, Surrey Libraries launched the #ReadersUnite campaign where staff members shared their current reads and encouraged patrons to also share their titles under the same hashtag. Another great example is when readers, libraries, publishers, and bookstores gathered together for Freedom to Read Week. Campaigns not only create participation amongst staff and patrons, but also connections to wider communities for larger causes.

 

But, one thing I’ve noticed that isn’t been as frequently used is the Instagram Stories function. While I will admit that I was initially skeptical of Snapchat’s copycat cousin, it has grown on me and frankly I think it’s better in terms of “business”. For one, your audience is already there, no need for a separate account. Two: it can reach a wider audience. Three: it has a hands free option! Four: it’s 15 seconds instead of 10! Currently, a few libraries including Surrey Libraries has been using IG Stories to provide branch tours or to show off some programs. But, why not use this opportunity to have staff members create quick little book chats/slams on their current favourite titles? Or reach out to your patrons and audience by maybe asking for recommendations. For example, if you’re setting up a display, ask them to send in their favourite titles. Let’s remember that RA can work both ways. If your library has a RA service like a book blog or a readers’ advisory request form, show it off using IG stories. Perhaps you have patrons who may not know of these services, so a quick live demo might attract some new users. 

IMG_9600.JPG

A sample of a saved IG story pic on the BCLA RAIG account

When you’re finally ready to post a story, use all the fun options such as filters, doodles, text, geotags (great for promoting branches!), stickers, and emojis. Also remember that stories are quick and take minimal time crafting, so no need to worry about creating that “perfect” IG photo. Make it fun and do you!

This week, we’ve been testing out some BCLA RAIG Book Chats on our IG account and hopefully it’s something we can continue. So check them out!

I hope that this post had some helpful tips on using Instagram for readers’ advisory. Try creating an IG story and chat about your latest reads. Share what’s been working for you and your library. 

Stephanie Hong, Casual Library Technician for Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library

Blind Date with a Book

If your library hasn’t tried a “Blind Date with a Book” display yet, put it on your radar for next year.  With a bit of planning and organization it’s a great way to inject a bit of whimsy into your displays.

The New Westminster Public Library has run a Blind Date with a Book for a few years now, and it’s great to hear patrons get enthusiastic when they see the display go up again.  We make sure we have signage that tells the public what to do (the first year a few people thought we were giving out presents and wanted to keep the books!) and use distinctive wrapping paper that catches the eye. We don’t limit ourselves to books – DVDs, audiobooks, and CDs have all made it in at one time or another.

blind-date-1

We write brief descriptions of the book and print them on labels that we stick to the front, and photocopy the barcode and attach this too, so the surprise isn’t ruined by having to unwrap the book at checkout.

blind-date-2

Once the display is up, we schedule social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and enjoy filling up the displays and getting feedback. Admittedly people don’t always like their blind date book, but taking a chance is part of the fun! This is a great way to get people to read out of their comfort zone. Staff across the library also enjoy having input as to what gets recommended, and everyone loves the challenge of writing a brief teaser description for the materials on display.

blind-date-3

How does your library run a blind date with a book display? What clever ways have you found to entice readers to pick up something unfamiliar?

 

Book List: Retro Reads

60th-logo-teal_smallBurnaby Public Library celebrated its 60th anniversary this year. We held special events throughout the year, including a Readers Advisory presentation called Retro Reads. Our staff selected books that were either written from the 50s until the 2000s or contemporary titles where the stories took place in that time period.

If you want to join our time travel adventure, here are some of the titles our librarians recommended (descriptions from publishers):

tuesday-nights-80 A debut novel that follows a critic, an artist, and a desirous, determined young woman as they find their way in the ever-evolving New York City art scene of the 1980s. (2016)

versions-usEva and Jim are nineteen and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva’s then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. The Versions of Us follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. (2015)

cover-happyfamilyTrenton, New Jersey, 1962: A pregnant girl staggers into a health clinic, gives birth, and flees. A foster family takes the baby in, and an unlikely couple, their lives unspooling from a recent tragedy, hastily adopts her. (2016)the-prisoner-of-heaven-uk

Carlos Ruiz Zafón creates a rich, labyrinthine tale of love, literature, passion, and revenge, set in a dark, gothic Barcelona, in 1957. It is Christmas, and Daniel Sempere and his wife Bea have much to celebrate. They have a beautiful new baby son named Julian, and their close friend Fermín Romero de Torres is about to be wed. But their joy is eclipsed when a mysterious stranger visits the Sempere bookshop and threatens to divulge a terrible secret that has been buried for two decades in the city’s dark past. The third book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. (2012)
girl-through-glass

In the summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet. Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor. (2016)

Freya.jpg

Flitting from war-haunted Oxford to the bright new shallows of the 1960s, Freya plots the unpredictable course of a woman’s life and loves against a backdrop of Soho pornographers, theatrical peacocks, willowy models, priapic painters, homophobic blackmailers, political careerists. (2016)

trouble-goats-sheep

England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined. (2015)

two-krishnas

In the tradition of A Fine Balance and The Namesake, The Two Krishna is a sensual and searing look at infidelity and the nature of desire and faith. At the center of the novel is Pooja Kapoor, a betrayed wife and mother who is forced to question her faith and marriage when she discovers that her banker husband Rahul has fallen in love with a young Muslim illegal immigrant man who happens to be their son’s age. Faced with the potential of losing faith in Rahul, divine intervention and family, she is forced to confront painful truths about the past and the duality in God and husband. (2010)

kays-lucky-coin-variety-jpg-size-custom-crop-431x650

A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s. (2016)do-not-say-we-have-nothing

Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations–those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-twentieth century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century. Winner of the 2016 Governor General Literary Award, also shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Man Booker Prize. (2016)  three-martini-lunch

In 1958, Greenwich Village buzzes with beatniks, jazz clubs, and new ideas—the ideal spot for three ambitious young people to meet. Cliff Nelson, the son of a successful book editor, is convinced he’s the next Kerouac, if only his father would notice. Eden Katz dreams of being an editor but is shocked when she encounters roadblocks to that ambition. And Miles Tillman, a talented black writer from Harlem, seeks to learn the truth about his father’s past, finding love in the process. Though different from one another, all three share a common goal: to succeed in the competitive and uncompromising world of book publishing.  (2016) attachments

Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke. When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories. By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself. (2011)

sons-daughters-ease-plenty

An imaginative novel about a wealthy New England family in the 1960s and ’70s that suddenly loses its fortune—and its bearings. (2016)

Best Bets 2016

Each year we pick our favourite books that we can’t stop recommending to people. Check out our 2016 list below!

You can also download a printable PDF version of the list.

01

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his teenage son, this is a short and very well-written meditation on what it means to be a black man in the US. Powerful, accessible and highly recommended.

– Jenny Fry, Surrey Libraries

 

 

 

02The Pier Falls: And Other Stories
by Mark Haddon

The award-winning British author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has written a collection of nine short stories. I found myself haunted by the characters and stories long after I finished the book. Haddon’s dark tales take the reader to such places as the British seaside, the Amazonian jungle and a tiny, desolate Greek island.  Genres in this book include sci-fi, mystery, adventure and more. The stories are so good…I bet you can’t read just one!

– Lori Nick, Fraser Valley Regional Library

 

03The Library at Mount Char
By Scott Hawkins

Once the Librarians were normal American kids. But after being orphaned they were raised by Father who trained each child in one catalogue of knowledge – languages, healing arts, math and sciences, war, and death. Years later Father has gone missing and the Librarians must find him, or at least resolve who exactly is now in charge. Hawkins tosses you into a deeply strange, complex, and violent fantasy of our world that rewards with a most haunting reading experience.

– Anna Ferri, Vancouver Public Library and West Vancouver Memorial Library 

04Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is a brilliant, hilarious feminist geobiologist. Her exceptional memoir traces her life’s journey thus far, exploring the lab of her scientist father as a child, studying within a male-dominated field, managing mental health breakdowns, enjoying recognition of her research, and reflecting upon marriage and motherhood. At its core, Lab Girl is the tale of her three-decade long intimate working relationship with her eccentric lab partner Bill, her love and admiration of plants, and her scientific vocation.

-Tara Matsuzaki, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 05H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

This book is impossible to classify. It is memoir, it is nature writing, it is a meditation on family relationships – but it is much more than the sum of its parts and will draw you in. MacDonald’s writing is beautiful and her ability to evoke feelings in the reader makes this book a really powerful experience.

– Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library

 

06Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

Mother warfare on the playground! What more do you want? How about a whodunnit thrown in the mix? This tale of small-town scandal, snobby parents, and murder is a deliciously entertaining read that will have you flipping frantically to get to the final page. And that is no lie!

– Alan Woo,  co-founder of This Book is RAD

 

 

07Captive Prince
by C.S. Pacat

In this high fantasy trilogy, Prince Damen is ousted from his throne and sent as a slave to Prince Laurent, the ruler of an enemy kingdom, where he must hide his true identity to stay alive. A compelling, fast-paced, character-driven narrative of political intrigue, tightly-plotted action, and queer romance. (Note that the first book in particular contains some graphic, dark themes.)

– Chloe Riley, Vancouver Public Library

 

08Dear Mr. You
by Mary-Louise Parker

This book took me for a spin. I’ve always enjoyed Mary-Lousie Parker’s acting roles and sass (Weeds, Angels in America, etc), so I was curious to pick up this book. I devoured this book in one sitting. Through a series of letters to the men who have impacted her life, Parker shares personal narratives that are hilarious, dark, sad, and moving. Her language is evocative and her stories are fascinating, personal, and vulnerable. Highly recommended.

 Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

09Humans of New York: Stories
by Brandon Stanton

Based on the blog Humans of New York. Stanton photographs strangers in the Big Apple, but in this sequel, he adds captions, pieces of conversations he had with those people. It is a powerful narrative and a celebration of our shared humanity, regardless of our roots, faiths, social statuses or bank accounts. We’re all human and yearn to belong and to be loved, and this shows so beautifully in Stanton’s images and captions.

– Ana Calabresi, Burnaby Public Library

10My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton, recovering in hospital from complications from minor surgery, tells her life story, with particular focus on her relationship with her mother. This is a beautiful, astonishing book which captured me from the first page – I read it almost straight through, captivated by the title character and the story of her life. It’s a life both ordinary and extraordinary. The voice is true and the story she tells moved me and made me consider my own memories. I cannot recommend it too highly.

– Claire Westlake, North Vancouver District Public Library

11A Head Full of Ghosts
by Paul Tremblay

In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, a  down-on-its-luck family agreed to an exorcism on a reality TV show. Tremblay has written a horrifying novel that requires no gore to chill your bones. He pays homage to the familiar possession tales while turning the conventions upside down, leaving us to figure out who is telling the truth.

-Virginia McCreedy, Port Moody Library

 

12
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Cliff Chiang

It’s time to join the American Newspaper Delivery Guild and meet the raddest group of newspaper delivering, video game playing, dinosaur fighting, time travelling, 12 year olds girls that 1988 has to offer. Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of hit Image comic Saga, is joined by Cliff Chiang, whose art manages to capture the personalities, emotions, and actions of the characters perfectly. Who knew newspaper delivery girls could be so badass?

– Matthew Murray, creator of the Readers’ Advisory for Library Staff Facebook group

Books for Promoting Civic Literacy

With public libraries around the world looking at how to foster civic participation and increase democracy, I thought I would recommend a few accessible non-fiction titles related to civic literacy.

Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath

Enlightenment 2.0Winner of the 2015 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, this entertaining and stimulating book makes the case for improving our political culture by facing up to the way human reasoning actually works. Rather than focusing on simply trying harder to think rationally, as many books about critical thinking do, Heath argues that we should try to improve our “cognitive environment,” which can either support or hinder reasoned debate. The book is particularly suggestive for librarians interested in how libraries can contribute to the “institutional scaffolding” necessary for a fully functioning democracy.

 

Tragedy in the Commons Tragedy in the Commons by Allison Loat and Michael MacMillan

Loat and MacMillan, of the non-profit Samara, which is dedicated to increasing civic engagement in Canada, interview eighty departing Members of Parliament to take the pulse of Canada’s parliamentary democracy. While they provide a starting point for considering a number of issues such as party discipline and the proper scope of constituency work, this book is perhaps most useful for conveying what the life of an average MP in today’s political climate is actually like. (Hint: it’s more Veep than Game of Thrones.)

 

What is Government Good AtWhat is Government Good At? By Donald Savoie

Seeking to dispel knee-jerk scorn for government, Donald Savoie takes a look at what government does and doesn’t do well. The book reminds readers that governments provide public goods where there is little incentive for private actors to truly tackle a problem, in many cases of the “wicked” variety. Sadly, this means that government failure tends to be visible and frequent. Nonetheless, Savoie explains how our political institutions (such as the public service) are going awry in a hostile environment and what kind of reforms could turn things around. What is Government Good At? Won the 2016 Donner Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Public Policy Writing by Canadians.

 

Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of CanadaFinal Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary by The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 calls to action. The first volume of the six-volume TRC report lays out the 94 recommendations for action, describes the history of residential schools, and conveys their damaging legacy.

 

 

Democratizing the Constitution by Peter Aucoin, Mark Jarvis, Lori Turnbull

Democratizing the ConstitutionThis book is another Donner Prize winner (2011). It is a valuable, readable resource for learning about the concept of responsible government and getting a solid grounding in some of the main features of parliamentary democracy. Arguing that the principle of responsible government has been eroded over time in Canadian politics, it proposes reforms that could restore the proper relationship between the Canadian prime minister, parliament, and the constitution.

 

What Women WantWhat Women Want by Deborah Rhode

This clearly-written book offers a whirlwind tour of public policies aimed at realizing gender equality. Rhode discusses a range of relatively familiar topics like pay equity, the division of domestic labour, and domestic violence. She also describes types of political action that have proven effective in winning change in the real world. Besides its pragmatic approach, what I especially liked about this book was the attention to less-commonly discussed policy ideas like public insurance for child support payments.

 

The Welfare State: a very short introductionThe Welfare State: A Very Short Introduction by David Garland

Canada is practically a socialist country, right? This brisk, well-written entry in Oxford’s Very Short Introductions series puts the Canadian welfare state in global context, explaining the three basic types– liberal democratic, Christian corporatist, and social democratic. (Canada’s is the first type – which is the least comprehensive.) Garland provides some surprisingly entertaining history as well, reaching back to the early days when Churchill described the “exhilaration” of social insurance that can “bring the magic of averages to the aid of the millions.”

 

Social Democratic AmericaSocial Democratic America by Lane Kenworthy

Could a liberal democracy like the United States (or Canada) become more like the Nordic social democracies of Denmark or Sweden? While there have been lots of great books written about inequality in the past few years, this is a personal favourite (even if it doesn’t foreground that way of phrasing the issue.) It is written in an amazingly clear and concise style (at a reading level similar to that of data journalism sites like Vox), laying out the extent of the problem, proposing solutions, and responding systematically, debate-style, to common objections. Some have been turned off by the book’s optimism; regardless, this is a must-read for understanding debates about the size and effectiveness of government programs.

 

Taxation: a very short introductionTaxation: A Very Short Introduction by Stephen Smith

There is no succinct book for a popular audience on Canadian tax policy debates along the lines of Slemrod and Bakija’s Taxing Ourselves or Bruce Bartlett’s The Benefit and the Burden for American readers. However, with economic inequality a major issue today, informed debate about tax policies and, perhaps more importantly, our overall tax system is extremely important (and is actually much more interesting than it sounds). This brief book published in 2015 does a decent job laying out the different aspects of tax policy, including different types of taxes, guiding principles like fairness and efficiency, and tax collection and evasion. No matter your opinion on taxes, this book is sure to illuminate aspects of the tax debate you hadn’t appreciated before.

Which books would you recommend for improving democratic participation and debate?

 

  • Joe H.