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Reading Trumps Ignorance

Reading can often open our minds to the experiences of others in ways that our individual lived experience cannot. After the most recent election in the United States many libraries and readers have united to recommend books that can help  counter voices of prejudice and ignorance. #Resist.

Here is a selection of links to inform and inspire:

ICYMI:  Libraries Across Borders List – Books that Trump will never read – but you should


11 Books to Helps Us Make it Through a Trump Presidency

Donald Trump is afraid of Books

Libraries Resist: A round-up of Tolerance, Social Justice and Resistance in US Libraries
San Francisco Public Library’s We Love Diverse Books program:

But, what about fake news, you ask? Try these:

How to spot fake news:

A Policy Proposal for driving out fake news and promoting better sources of journalism:
Has your library used any of these ideas or similar to create displays, book lists or other RA activities?  Tell us in the comments.

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.


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.


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.


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?


Reading Resolutions

New Year = New reading you?

One should not feel obliged to take a reading resolution in the new year, but the holiday break is a fine opportunity to review the past year’s reading habits or trends and to imagine new goals or intentions. So what kinds of reading resolutions are possible? I wanted to take the time to go through some of the more common ones if you are not sure whether you really need a new challenge, or to make or break a habit for 2017. I divided them into three groupings:

1)Number of books

2)Reading habits


1)Number of books tends to be the most common one I hear, probably because I spend too much time on Goodreads and the yearly challenge is strictly about the number of books you intend to tackle in the coming year. You can start any time and you can adjust it on the fly so if 20 was your initial goal but you are having a banner year – bump it up to 50 to stretch yourself. Or conversely: you were aiming for 100 and your life circumstances are going to make that impossible? Bump it back to something more obtainable and just slightly stretchy. One of my goals is roughly to read less books than I did last year, so I’ve set it for 50.

2)Next up is reading/book habits! Maybe you would like to do more reading during certain times of day: before bed, in the morning, during your commute. Maybe you would like to read more with partners or children. Maybe this year you will join a book club or article group to incorporate more community and discussion in your reading life. Other common resolutions address tackling that TBR pile or shelf that is taking over your apartment! You might commit to “shopping your shelves” the next time you’re looking to pick up a book to read. Another good one is to try visiting the library instead of bookstore when space or money for additional reads is an ongoing problem – it’s free and you must give the books back after (although no one is stopping you from purchasing a newly discovered treasure.) Related is a one-book-in = one-book-out policy, which seems cruel but perhaps necessary if space or clutter is an issue.

3)Last is one of my favourites: Diversify! If you’ve spent a little time reviewing your past reading habits and trends, you may have noticed a tendency to read similar kinds of things over time. That is not bad per se, we all tend to read what we know we will like, but maybe there is good stuff out there that you are missing! Or perhaps you’ve been feeling like you are in a reading rut. Well, one way to tackle this particular problem is to take on a reading challenge. Several you might have heard of include the Book Riot yearly Read Harder challenge, the Book Club for Masochists genre reading challenge, or a diverse reading challenge such as those several of my workplaces have run – where the focus is on reading more women, minorities, and local authors using a points system or review model. These can be fun, and have definitely stretched my reading above and beyond what I normally read. One of the benefits of joining a challenge like these is the community aspect, where you can talk and give advice on potential reads to meet the challenge – because if there is one thing I like almost as much as reading books – it’s talking about them too.

But you needn’t feel obliged to take on someone else’s challenge wholesale. I’ve seen some interesting adaptions to different challenges already, thereby creating your own personal reading challenge to explore an area, a format, or a genre you haven’t spent much time on before, or just try a whole bunch of new things. You can definitely take inspiration from some of the other challenges out there but don’t let that constrain your imagination.

What are my reading resolutions? Well, as I noted above, I’m trying to read less books, with more intention. I might be a certified book glutton based on my last year’s experience and I think slowing down will improve the experience (and maybe my memory). Secondly, my intention is to read more French language materials – so if you have any recommendations I’m all ears. My reading level is only intermediate so things that are age appropriate and don’t require me to spend more of my time in a dictionary than reading to understand what is going on is ideal (the last book I started that I really enjoyed was Madame Victoria by Catherine Leroux.)

What about you? Reading resolutions you’ve taken on? Tips for my resolutions? Opinions on the resolution impulse?


Author Read-Alikes

Lately  I have been receiving many author read-alike requests from patrons. A useful tool for recommending read-alike authors is the Literature Map: the Tourist Map of Literature. The Literature Map is part of Gnod (Global network of discovery). It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system.

I really like how authors enjoyed by the same readers are grouped close together on the map, and the more often that they are recommended together, the closer they appear to each other. The map provides a wide variety of authors, and it is easy to see which authors are most similar and which are a little different. For example, I get many requests for read-alikes for Louise Penny.  Some of the closest authors on the map to Penny are Erin Hart, Elly Griffiths, and Charles Finch. These are  recommendations that work well and I am happy to recommend them to patrons.

However, it is also useful to note the authors that are placed a little farther away. Val McDermid, Laura Lippman and Maeve Binchy are not perfect matches, but they might be similar enough that the reader might consider them and be willing to try something new.

Another great tool (that I think we all probably use quite often) is NoveList. I love using NoveList for author read-alikes, mainly because I can access excellent printable lists. Why is this useful? Having something to hand to patrons is fantastic.  They have a list of potential great reads that they can explore at their leisure.

Here are some of the titles I have recommended for Louise Penny read-alikes:


-Sally Gwyn, Fraser Valley Regional Library






Quick Reads

Enjoyable as it is to immerse your self in an inches-thick book, having the time and focus to do so is becoming somewhat of a luxury–especially during the busy holiday season. Here are a few excellent titles to recommend to patrons that will only take a short time to read.


Vinegar Girl by the renowned author, Anne Tyler is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s, “Taming of the Shrew”.  The story centers on Kate Battista, a preschool teaching assistant whose quirky personality always makes her presence known.  She is put to task when approached by her scientist father to help his lab assistant stay in the country by agreeing to marry him. The drama that ensues between all the characters is mixed with more humor and gentleness than the original version but still makes for a lively, interesting read!


Timothy Christopher Greene’s latest novel, If I Forget You, is a story of lost love. Twenty-one years after a love affair this memorable couple have parted; a chance encounter brings them back together.  Each has married, Margot still unhappily married and Henry, now divorced.  This love story is told in both past and present; each chapter brings a shift in time and delves into the different stages of a relationship. As the book evolves, each realizes that it is a love worth fighting for and one they do not want to lose again.  This novel confirms how the choices we make can change the path of our lives forever.


Jacqueline Woodson’s, Another Brooklyn is breathtaking! This unforgettable novel explores the beauty and hardship of girlhood in 1970’s Brooklyn. Woodson manages to bring four black girls, August, Sylvia, Angela and Gigi, and their separate home situations, to life in vivid color. The story follows their lives and struggles and the family conflicts that they all endure.  The friends share their hopes and fears and learn all about the complexities of youth, loss, friendship, family, race and religion.


Father’s Day, by Simon Van Booy is a beautifully written book about a little girl named Harvey. Harvey becomes an orphan at the age of six following a car accident that took the lives of her parents. Harvey is put in the care of her father’s estranged older brother, Jason, who has more than his share of problems.  An ex-con and recovering alcoholic he is now suddenly thrown into the most important role of his life so far, that of a legal guardian to Harvey.  Together they negotiate the map of life building beautiful memories while learning the importance of family.


The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick is a fast read with unforgettable characters that move through grief and the process of starting over.  After forty years of marriage, Arthur’s wife dies unexpectedly.  On the first anniversary of her death he decides to clean out her belongings.  It is here he finds a gold charm bracelet full of charms.  He makes it his mission to trace his wife’s life through these charms.  It is amazing what he discovers not only about her but also about himself in the process.

-Caroline Wandell,  Fraser Valley Regional Library




BC Reads

My father-in-law Frank loves to read  about the history of British Columbia. He enjoys wilderness adventure stories and pioneer memoirs.  While searching for a good read for him, I have discovered some useful resources to find books for library patrons who are interested in reading about BC.  

BC Booklook’s  Literary Map of BC is useful to find authors who write about a particular area of interest. The site also has links to BC author blogs, and archives of BC bestsellers.


Powered by 49thShelf, BC Books Online offers a user-friendly searchable database of books and eBooks written by BC authors. I was able to find many titles about Frank’s particular area of interest:  the Cariboo-Chilcotin. There are many reading lists based on subject, theme, and place.

Here are some BC reads that I have recommended over the years:


What are your favourite BC reads?

-Lori Nick, Terry Fox Branch, Fraser Valley Regional Library

This Book is RAD!

There are countless resources out there when it comes to diversity in books for children and youth. The successful We Need Diverse Books campaign, for one.

But when my friend and fellow librarian Christina Appleberry and I tried to find books for adults that featured diverse characters, we had a much more difficult time doing so. By all means, there are numerous staff lists on library websites that embrace diversity, but that took a lot of digging and sifting. Plus, many of those lists grouped the books into categories such as Asian Books or African American Books. What if we wanted to find a cozy mystery that featured a lead character that also just happened to be a person of colour or identified as gay?

This is when we had our lightbulb moment to create a website that would act as a Readers’ Advisory resource for those seeking various types of books featuring diverse characters or written by diverse authors. Thus, This Book is RAD was born! (RAD stands for Readers’ Advisory Diversity.) We are still in the beginning stages of this, with a handful of book titles up on the site and continuing to update it as much as we can whenever possible, but we have yet to break the Internet. With that being said, if anyone out there has any recommendations for diverse books, please do feel free to get in touch with us and send in a write-up for us to post!

Diversity is such a big topic, so we try to read widely and add categories as they come up. Our main focus is people of colour, but we have also gone on to include sexuality, gender, body image, disabilities, mental health, women, etc. We do try to keep it to adult selections as well, though you’ll notice there are definitely several young adult titles that we have featured. We also try to have a variety of genres, from non-fiction to graphic novels, poetry, science fiction, spy, etc.

Here are a few selections from our blog:

By Yaa Gyasi

Epic is the best word for me to describe this debut novel from Yaa Gyasi. It reminded me a lot of And the Mountains Echoed, in the way that each chapter revolves around a different character and how it jumps in time, but it all fits together into one larger story. A novel in stories, I believe is what I had been told this is called. Each story stands alone perfectly, but is woven seamlessly together to create an expansive tapestry.

Homegoing encompasses the lives of two sisters born in Ghana in the 18th century who get separated and wind up with very different lives – one is sold into slavery, the other becomes the wife of a British slave trader. And from there, we watch as the two family trees unravel into Africa and America, respectively. There is so much going on in this novel, that it’s just breathtaking. Parts will destroy you, while others will lift you right back up again. At only 26 years old, Gyasi has produced an instant classic here. Now how RAD is that?

Homegoing was released this past June 2016, so it’s a very new and current novel, as well!

-Alan Woo

And The Mountains Echoed
by Khaled Hosseini

This third novel from Khaled Hosseini is a return to form for the author the bestselling book The Kite Runner. I loved that book. It was a doorway into a world I had no concept of. His second outing, A Thousand Splendid Suns, focused mainly on the lives of Muslim women and domestic abuse. I wasn’t sure if I was a fan of it as much as The Kite Runner, but I liked it enough to want to read his most recent piece, And The Mountains Echoed.

This book is a sweeping tapestry of stories from Afghanistan, with a pit-stop in Paris, and jumps through time as we visit upon a multitude of characters whose lives intertwine and are torn apart. The first chapter featured a story within a story (i.e. one of the characters is telling a fable), which threw me off and didn’t really make me want to continue reading, but the fable fits well with the story line and once I got over that hump, I just could not put this book down. Beautiful, poetic, and downright moving, And The Mountains Echoed is a wonderful read that I would highly suggest.

-Alan Woo

by Sarai Walker

I really enjoyed Sarai Walker’s debut novel Dietland, which is toted as being “part coming-of-age and part revenge-fantasy.” It follows the story of Plum, a heavy set woman who is dealing with body image, weight, dieting, and self-confidence. One day she notices a young lady following her, and this leads her into an adventure of self-discovery. The journey itself is filled with intrigue, as we meet mysterious characters and an international movement to empower women.

This book makes the RAD list because it features a character who is overweight, and also a side character who is half-Black and possibly a lesbian. Many of the characters in the book are female, with only a handful of men popping up here and there if only to put their chauvinism on display. This was also an enjoyable read that had me flipping through the pages as quick as I could to reach its heart-swelling climax.

-Alan Woo

Symptoms of Being Human
by Jeff Garvin

Oh wow. This book is fantastic. It taught me the term “gender fluid” which was something totally new to me. If you don’t know what gender fluid is, this book will definitely enlighten you. It brings you into the world of Riley, who sometimes feels like a boy and sometimes feels like a girl.

Now try going to a new high school with that. Add in a love interest, political drama, bullying, and so much more, and you have a recipe for a tightly-written, engulfing coming-of-age-and-then-some story, while introducing a whole new world and experience to readers at the same time. Other characters who bump this book up the RAD (Readers Advisory Diversity) ladder include Solo, the African-American jock with a heart of gold and a slight body image issue; Bec, the girl who wins Riley’s heart; and the multitude of trans characters who show up throughout the book in numerous different ways.

This book ran me through a gauntlet of emotions. I was crying my eyes out one moment, then completely enraged the next, but throughout the story, I found myself consistently rooting for our main character, Riley. Jeff Garvin’s book is a YA treasure that needs to be uncovered by more people. So go do it already and read this book!

-Alan Woo

Whatever It Takes
by Gwynne Foster

This is not the kind of book I would normally read, but I was walking through the paperbacks section of the library and I saw a book with a black woman on the cover. It’s not a common sight among the cozies and westerns and romances, so I figured I’d give it a try. Whatever It Takes, written by Gwynne Foster, is about a woman who is dealing with her parents’ divorce, a jealous and spiteful twin sister who seems hell bent on sabotaging her life, and the new man in her life. At times I thought that I might be reading Christian fiction (the father is a deacon) or romance, but I don’t think this book is either. It’s really just about family and relationships. It’s kind of like a Lifetime movie… but a book. Not bad, but not great. It didn’t change my life, but it was nice to read a book with black characters that wasn’t about slavery, civil rights, poverty, violence, or racism. We need more of that.

-Christina Appleberry

Fresh Off The Boat: A Memoir
by Eddie Huang

In the words of the author, Eddie Huang, this book is ill! (That’s a good thing!) Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, is the basis of the hit ABC sitcom of the same name. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know it’s a pretty funny show. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? The book however, is not quite the same. The show is much more Disney while the actual memoir is pretty raw and gritty at times.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is still full of humour as Huang navigates what it’s like growing up as an Asian-American in 1990s Orlando, with wit, intelligence, and heart. He bares all as he describes all the fist fights, the drug pedaling, and the racism. You don’t see much of that in the TV sitcom. What you also don’t get from the TV show is the reason why his grandma is in a wheelchair. On the show, she shows up in every other scene to deliver a sassy line of dialogue. In the book, it turns out she’s in a wheelchair because her feet were bound when she was a child!

His obsession with hip hop is also rampant in the book, as is his love for sneakers, basketball, and food. Now the proprietor of NYC’s BaoHaus restaurant, this book clearly shows his trajectory from being a small time troublemaker to a law school graduate to restaurateur, and everything in between. Along for the ride are his two younger brothers, his bad-ass of a father (also dumbed down for television), and his outrageous mother. Huang tackles the issues of race from his perspective, using his points of reference: hip hop, rap, basketball, and food.

This was an inspirational read. I can’t wait to go to NYC and visit his restaurant and maybe even meet the man himself.

-Alan Woo

Indian Horse
by Richard Wagamese

This novel by First Nations/Aboriginal Canadian author Richard Wagamese follows the life of Saul, aka. Indian Horse, as he is born and raised in the Canadian wilderness, only to be ripped out of his family’s arms and thrown into the horrors and evils of a residential school. It’s terrifying to know that these places actually existed here in Canada, a country that today seems so advanced in human rights yet has a dark and cruel past.

Saul’s only savior is of all things, hockey. How much more Canadiana can this be? His success on the ice helps carve out a new life for him, away from the residential school. But no matter what hockey team he plays on or what Canadian town he ends up in, there is little escape from the atrocities of racism that plight the world around him. Saul continues to run, skate, and drink, but eventually his past threatens to break through the ice to leave him drowning.

The first part of this book was intriguing, describing traditions, living in the woods, and re-tellings of Aboriginal stories. The residential school portion was infuriating and heartbreaking. The hockey parts of the book are the most fleshed out, and you can tell Wagamese is either himself a huge hockey fan, or has done his research! I’m not fussed over hockey, but in the context of this novel, I can appreciate it as a vehicle for the main character to escape and make a better life for himself.

Indian Horse is a selection I came across through the Amnesty International Book Club.

–Alan Woo

Visit This Book Is RAD for more diverse selections!