Tag Archives: reading

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.

Book Movement and organizing your book club

logoI was perusing the Adult Reading Round Table website, “a group dedicated to developing readers’ advisory skills and promoting reading for pleasure through public libraries in the Chicago area,” which I learned about in a webinar a few months ago. While reading about their leadership recommendations for book club leaders, I discovered a link to the website Book Movement. This website is a resource for book club groups–covering 35,000 book clubs across the United States and what books they recommend and why. In addition to learning about book club options and receiving weekly book club picks, you can track your club’s RSVPs and send out automatic reminders and reading guides via automatic emails. Although I have not joined this resource yet (more emails!?), I am following them on Facebook and would be curious to hear from anyone who participates in their services. Have you used www.bookmovement.com?

–Meghan S, Surrey Libraries

What’s the Appeal? Using Appeal Factors and Field Codes in NoveList

logoNOVELISTLg

I have to admit that I don’t use NoveList nearly as often as I could when delivering Reader’s Advisory at the library desk. I was intrigued to learn that NoveList has been developing their appeal factors to help you find just the right book for a patron. Their appeal categories include Character, Illustration, Pace, Storyline, Tone, and Writing Style. Each of these categories can be broken down further into a list of adjectives (for example, do you want “candid” writing style or a “spare” writing style?) Please note, I haven’t included links because you have to navigate to these pages through our own library’s NoveList site.

NoveList has some pre-set searches including “I’m in the mood for books that are moving and haunting” (try Girl at War by Sara Novic) OR “action-packed and fast-paced” (try White Ghost by Steven Gore). You can also try their appeal mixer. The appeal mixer is a lot of fun—I chose “Character-Complex,” “Writing Style-Compelling,” and “Pace-Fast-paced” and received 135 recommendations including Tana French, Anna Quindlen, and lots of Sherrilyn Kenyon (who I was not expecting and have not yet read…) You can also adjust the results for adults, teens, kids aged 9-12, and kids aged 0-8.

In addition to appeal terms, NoveList has two-letter field codes that enable you to do Boolean searches. For example, to find suspenseful literary fiction, type in “GN literary fiction AND AP suspenseful” into the NoveList search box. Be sure to capitalize the field codes (GN for Genre and AP for Appeal Terms) as well as capitalize the Boolean operators. This search resulted in 200 results including Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests and Emma Donoghue’s Room. They have list of all the field codes in a PDF here as well as a cheat sheet of the most commonly used field codes here.

When I receive requests about genres or styles that I rarely read, such as romance books without any sex, it’s good to know NoveList has field codes to help narrow down possible titles (“GN romance AND AP chaste”).

If you have access to NoveList at your library, explore the different appeal factors and field codes to see the types of searches that might help you solve those tricky Readers’ Advisory requests!

-Meghan S, Surrey Libraries

Book Club for Masochists

book club for masochistsMany members of the BCLA Readers’ Advisory Interest Group are part of the Book Club for Masochists, a group they started while attending SLAIS to “become […] better librarians by reading books [they] hate!”

The premise is a good one for pushing you out of your comfort zone: each month they select a genre and members read a couple of books from that genre that they will share with the group.

They’ve got quite a few genres under their belt now including:

Space Opera
Aboriginal/Indigenous/First Nations
Christmas/Holiday
Cozy Mysteries
Books in Translation
Religion (non-fiction)
Psychological Thrillers
Technology (non-fiction)
Gothic Literature
Historical Romance

Read about their feedback on books—what they recommend for a particular genre and what they advise avoiding. This is a great resource for encouraging you to read something new or for helping you find a book for a patron in a genre with which you’re unfamiliar. Be sure to tune into their very first podcast, published March 17 2016 on the genre of Historical Romance: http://bookclub4m.tumblr.com/

Has anyone participated in a similar-themed book club?

-Meghan S, Surrey Libraries

 

The Challenge of Reading Challenges

Our library celebrates its 150th birthday this year, and as a gift to the community we created a book of 150 reading challenges, which replaced the Adult Summer Reading club we have done in previous years. Our intention was to create a marketing piece for the library that would showcase our collections and share our enthusiasm with everyone who uses the library.  Erin Watkins, our Manager of Programs and Community Development, was instrumental in getting this off the ground.  Thanks, Erin!

This is what we discovered while putting the booklet together:

150_RC_Slide

 

Many hands make light work. We had staff from multiple areas of the library contribute ideas for the challenges, but we had one person compile them. This allowed for diverse interests, collection areas and material types, which we hoped would appeal to a broader range of our community. The challenges were meant to encompass all aspects of our library’s collection in as many formats as possible to inspire people to move beyond their tried and true reading, viewing, and listening habits. Literacy is not just about books, and having the challenges touch on multiple formats will give people a chance to explore areas of the library that they may have previously ignored or been uninterested in. Having staff from all over the library contribute really helped set the groundwork for the challenges. Having one staff member compile the results was a way to ensure we kept to task and made it to our goal of 150 challenges – one for each year the library has been in existence.

Enthusiasm helps! Staff enthusiasm for a project like this helps us all see how diverse our colleagues and their interests are, which makes the workplace a fun place to be. It also means that we are better able to use that knowledge in a readers’ advisory situation because if we don’t share the reading interests of the patron in front of us, we can certainly find someone who does.

More heads are better than one. Collaborative work meant that wrangling 150 challenges into a semblance of order so they could be put into a booklet was much more effective. It also established a way for us to riff off each other’s ideas and build on each other’s work. One of the most exciting aspects of this format meant we could move beyond the familiar territory of the Adult Summer Reading club booklist and offer book bingo, a crossword puzzle, and a drawing challenge as well.

We have built in social media components in terms of a section of the challenge being called “Share” where we encourage community members to share their challenges with us on social media, and we have already had some really fun contributions for community members.

NWPL Instagram

If you are thinking of doing something similar at your library, don’t hesitate! Not only will it reinvigorate your passion for connecting with library users, but it will empower you to learn even more about the collection in your own library and inspire your own reading/viewing/listening habits. We can’t wait for the conversations we’re going to have with our library users: in the stacks, at the desk, on social media – all about what we love to watch, read, and listen to. It’s going to be a great summer!

What are your plans for adult summer reading inspiration at your library? Comment below so we can all be inspired!

Shelley Wilson-Roberts is the Public Services Librarian II at the New Westminster Public Library.

Listen On…How Audiobooks can help you with RA

So much to read, so little time! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed attempting to keep up with fiction and non-fiction. I regularly take stacks of books home each week but can only manage to read a portion of them. Of course, I read reviews, browse our incoming New Books section and talk to patrons about books. But, for me, one of the best ways to keep up with reading is … to listen to books.

Early on in my library career, a wise colleague named Elfriede suggested that I listen to audiobooks as a way to acquaint myself with popular authors that I didn’t read. It had never occurred to me to listen to an audiobook. I loved reading; why would I want to listen to a book? Like many patrons, I associated audiobooks with people who didn’t like reading or couldn’t read because of vision problems.

Elfriede suggested that I could listen to genres that I didn’t usually read or books that didn’t appeal to me. I took her advice and checked out my first audiobook – Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.   While Sebold’s book was popular at the time, I had no interest in reading it. I thought I‘d listen to the book for a while to get an idea of what it was like and then stop – ready to function more ably as a reader’s advisor. I started the novel on my drive home from work one evening. When I got home I couldn’t leave the car. I kept listening. The narrator, Alyssa Bresnahan, was mesmerizing. I felt like she was reading the book to me; I was hooked.

Alice Sebold

Before I started listening to books, I was one of the few librarians I knew who didn’t really like mysteries and thrillers. Now, after starting listening to books to increase my reader’s advisory ability, I devour mystery series. Just like I look forward to the latest Richard Ford or Miriam Toews in print, I can’t wait for the latest Flavia DeLuce mystery by Alan Bradley in audio. Other favourites include Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series, anything by Denise Mina, Ken Bruen, James Lee Burke or Lee Child.

louise Penny

I’ve become attached to certain narrators. I’ll listen to anything read by Simon Vance (Peter May’s Enzo files or Chris Ewan’s Good Thief’s Guide mysteries), George Guidall (from Lillian Jackson Braun’s cat cozies to Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme thrillers) and the inimitable Barbara Rosenblat (especially the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters). I’ve joked that Ralph Cosham, who is Louise Penny’s Gamache to me, could read the cereal box and I would keep listening. Audiobooks read by narrators with accents are especially appealing as the story and characters are so enriched. The Help by Kathryn Stockett, read by multiple narrators, is one of my favourite ‘listens’ – and a book that I didn’t really want to read. I think the audio version is better than the book. An AudioFile reviewer noted that “audio is THE way to be inside this story, brilliantly cast with four voices…[the narrator’s] musical speech and emotional connection to the characters are riveting.” Generally, I stay away from author-read titles. But Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please and Tina Fey’s Bossypants, both read by the author, are not to be missed.

Tina Fey

I find it quite difficult to recommend books I haven’t read. Similarly, it’s tricky to find author read-alikes if you haven’t read the original author. Listening to audiobooks can help you differentiate your James Patterson’s from your David Baldacci’s. Haven’t read Janet Evanovich – and don’t plan to! – listen to the fabulous C.J. Critt or, for more recent titles, Lorelei King narrate the witty travails of Stephanie Plum.

Audiobooks are the perfect companion for any activity. At the library, I am constantly trying to promote audiobooks as an alternative to reading. After a busy work day, being read to rather than reading is a soothing way to end your day.  You can suggest patrons use the automatic shut off feature of their phone or iPod if they say that they fall asleep listening to books. Commuting is, perhaps, the best opportunity to listen to books. For those who can’t read on a bus suggest listening instead. Road trips and audiobooks are like chocolate and peanut butter – they go together!

I guarantee that you will not regret listening to an audiobook. It will  provide you with a broader base to provide reader’s advisory services – for every 1 print book that I finish I probably listen to 2-3 audiobooks. You may even become an audiobook zealot like me!

For audiobook reviews and more go to: audiofilemagazine.com.
Look for the monthly Earphones Award winners, Audie Award winners (annual award for outstanding audiobooks) and audiobook reviews.

Stephanie Crosbie is an auxiliary librarian at the New Westminster Public Library.  Her nose (or ears) are frequently stuck in a good book!

BPL’s Summer Reads

8157614739_d096cd9bd7_b

Every year, since 2007, Burnaby Public Library compiles a list of 100 titles to suggest to patrons during the summer. We call it Summer Reads. The person behind one of our most popular RA initiatives is Diane Sura, our Readers’ Advisory extraordinaire from the Bob Prittie Metrotown branch.

During the year, Diane jots down notes about the books she reads to make her task easier when Spring comes and it’s time to start working on the summer recommendations. Besides her own titles, she also asks staff for suggestions and searches the mainstream media book lists. She usually selects books that were published in the past couple of years.

There are five categories in the list: Canadian, Fun, Thought-Provoking, Get Away (travel, sci-fi, historical) and Just Good. “What fits into each category is pretty fluid, it’s more a way to manage the displays and lists,” says Diane.

The books must be available in trade paperback and they have to be titles we have in our catalogued collection (a great part of our paperbacks are uncatalogued). We buy extra copies for the program, put a Summer Reads sticker on the cover, and display them during the summer. Diane says we try to get a broad mix of genres, with 10-20% non-fiction. “While we do not pick ‘beach books’, we do try to pick books that are very ‘readable’ and gripping,” she adds.

We promote the list on our website under Staff Picks as an interactive PDF document. Some of our patrons like it so much they start asking about the Summer Reads before we start promoting it at the beginning of July. Diane reports “many people use the list as recommended reading for the entire year.”

Here are five books from this year’s list:

all-puny-sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
Yoli is desperate to prevent the suicide of her sister Elf, a celebrated and happily married pianist. Blending sadness and humour, this is a heartfelt account of Toews’ own tragedies.

ancillary-justice

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Debut novel that has won every major sci-fi award. All that is left of the colossal starship Justice of Toren is Bereq and she is out for revenge.

delicious

Delicious!, by Ruth Reichl
When the iconic New York food magazine Delicious is shut down, newly hired Billie Breslin stays behind to man the complaints and recipe hotline, rather than return home.

brilliant-blunders

Brilliant Blunders, by Mario Livio
Drawing on the lives of five great scientists who have changed our understanding of life and the universe, Livio shows how the scientific method advances through error.

why-i-read

Why I read, by Wendy Lesser
Magazine editor Lesser draws on a lifetime of pleasure reading to describe her passion for literature. “Iconoclastic, conversational and full of insight.”

Share in the comments the RA programs/initiatives that you have in your library during the summer.

Image: Michael Coghlan

Ana Calabresi is an Auxiliary Librarian at Burnaby Public Library, she is crazy about reading lists.