Monday, April 02, 2007

Nonfiction Readers' Advisory edited by Robert Burgin

In Nonfiction Readers' Advisory, Robert Burgin collects a dozen essays on the need for and provision of good library advisory service to nonfiction readers.

Joyce Saricks wrote the introduction, in which she called for "truly helpful reference tools that discuss nonfiction in a way that makes librarians aware of connections and possibilities." She goes on to ask for tools that: 1) group books by nonfiction genre, 2) identify core authors and titles, 3) describe ongoing resources for identifying titles, 4) list "sure bets" to give to readers, and 5) network readers' advisory librarians.

In "A History of Readers' Advisory Service in Public Libraries," Bill Crowley tells about American Library Association's Reading with a Purpose program in the 1920s. Subject specialists wrote prescribed reading lists with very educational intent that were sold by ALA to libraries. The experts had no experience with the reading public and promoted difficult works. Librarians were left out of the process. Pleasure reading was not considered. The program was discontinued because the process of updating was cumbersome.

Kathleen de la Pena McCook in "Beyond Boundaries" says that narrative does not have to be linear or chronological. She later says that nonfiction programming in the library is evidence in interest in nonfiction reading.

In " Many Kinds of Crafted Truths: An Introduction to Nonfiction," David Carr says: "Nonfiction is crafted to communicate accurate images to the reader, so that the reader might in turn craft more complex understandings of lived experiences."

He talks about two types of biographies: 1) great and obvious lives and 2) unexpected lives. "Biography and memoir might easily be described through lenses of integrity, courage, philosophy, faith, ethics, and values. As we read these books, we are able to dwell within entire frames of life and behavior we cannot otherwise occupy."

"Our lives are nonfiction; we want them to hold the qualities we seek as we read; authenticity, confirmation, integrity, discipline, veracity, and insight."

In "Reading Nonfiction for Pleasure: What Motivates Readers,"Catherine Ross lists thirteen observations about nonfiction reading and discusses these observations. "Heavy readers" read both fiction and nonfiction for pleasure. ("Heavy" reference to quantity of books read, not weight of the reader.)

Ross reports that Louise Rosenblatt in The Reader, the Text, the Poem (1978) says that "readers bring to their reading not only prior knowledge but also particular dispositions about how they read texts."

"Biographies in particular are often read as blueprints and models for living."

Duncan Smith in "True Stories: Portraits of Four Nonfiction Readers" examines why people like what they like to read. The circumstances of their lives and the interests with which they have grown up factor heavily in their reading choices.

Stacy Alesi in "Readers' Advisory in the Real World" tells about using book sites on the Internet to help her identify nonfiction books for readers. She wrote in late 2003 or early 2004, saying there were no print tools to help her. That is a changing situation.

In "The Story is the Thing: Narrative Nonfiction for Recreational Reading," Vicki Novak defines narrative nonfiction and lists ten reasons to read nonfiction.

The twelve essays in Nonfiction Readers' Advisory give librarians much to consider. They are now three years old and the issue has been discussed in library literature, on blogs, and at conferences, but this text is still a good starting place for study.

Nonfiction Readers' Advisory edited by Robert Burgin. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2004ISBN 159158115x


Nonanon said...

I too found this book very useful and really appreciated its coverage in a variety of different areas, from collection development to real-world reader's advisory situations. I'm glad you found it to be a worthwhile read as well.

LibrarianInBlack said...

I get frequent requests for free online resources that do non-fiction readers advisory. I have been able to find nearly nothing. Any suggestions? A short list, even one site, would make a great blog post!

Nonanon said...

Hi, Rick, Hi, librarianinblack,
I myself have always been partial to and, because both of those sites do nonfiction and fiction. And, of course, ricklibrarian does nonfiction reviews, and offers the great librarian's book revoogle, which lets you search for nonfiction reviews by librarians.

ricklibrarian said...

Overbooked has Nonfiction Stars, which are nonfiction books that were starred in the review journals of Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. That is found at
This can help with the general finding a good nonfiction book to read.

Looking for similar books can be harder. That is one purpose to which the Librarian's Booklist Search can be put. As I find more library booklists, it may be more success.