Thursday, March 17, 2005

How I Find Books to Read, Part 4: The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction by Joyce G. Saricks

Bonnie brings books home for me. Is it mysterious if I do not identify Bonnie? Bonnie loves mysteries and has introduced me to many of the genre’s authors, including Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers, P. D. James, Colin Dexter, Charlotte Macleod, and Ellis Peters. She lugs home art and art history books, too, especially books about Giotto and Florence and J. M. W. Turner. She checks out new titles by our favorite children’s authors. We follow the adventures of Carl the dog by Alexandra Day and mischievous Max and Ruby by Rosemary Wells religiously. She recently brought home Portuguese Irregular Verbs and The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith. We laughed out loud. Thank you, Bonnie.

If my memory is correct, my daughter Laura was the first person in the house to utter the words “Harry Potter.” One of her teachers or a volunteer parent read Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling aloud to her class at her elementary school. Laura has identified other books for me, including Tangerine by Edward Bloor, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and her favorite titles in the Dear America Series. We once had an agreement to trade book recommendations. To test whether I would live up to my end of the bargain, she pulled a random book off the paperback rack at our public library, and as a result, I read The Beast by Peter Benchley. Now in high school, Laura complained last year about how difficult to read she found A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. I started it with the intention of showing her how easy it was, but I quickly found that I agreed with her complaint. Twain often used ten words when two would do. Thank you, Laura.

Until recently Joyce worked with Bonnie at the Downers Grove Public Library. Knowing my eclectic tastes, she sent numerous books to me through Bonnie. Thanks to Joyce I read Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. In book discussions that she organized we read Middlemarch by George Eliot and John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet. She always has new reading ideas.

I am not the only person to be enriched by Joyce’s reading recommendations. She writes the reference books on readers’ advisory. One of her books is The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, in which she includes chapters for fifteen different genres. Each chapter gives the history of a genre and identifies movements within the field, as well as major authors. Joyce also points out that books do not fit snugly into categories. Each chapter has a table that helps readers find books that cross over, such as science fiction titles that are also literary, or westerns that include romance. Her book can also be used for library collection development. Authors, titles, and subjects are indexed in the back. For librarians who do not know all the genres, many of us, this book is essential. Thank you, Joyce.

Saricks, Joyce. The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001. ISBN 0838908039

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