With many libraries spending less on new books due to budget cuts in 2010, it is time for many of us to rely on the books that we already have to satisfy the public urge to read. With fewer items on new book shelves, librarians and readers are going to have to retrieve more books from the stacks, the last place that many readers are ever seen. So, the timing of Now Read This III by our friends Nancy Pearl and Sarah Statz Cords is perfect. Their book which identifies mainstream fiction published between 2002 and 2009 (with a few exceptions), titles that many of us have in abundance, is a key to getting those books off the shelves and into readers' hands.
"Key" is a good word to use at this point because Pearl and Cords present four "doorways" to the finding of books to please readers. These are Setting, Story, Character, and Language. Each of the four chapters of this guidebook to fiction identifies novels or short story collections that have one of these primary appeal factors. With a total of over 500 titles described, the four chapters arranged alphabetically by author are lengthy. Just reading through the chapters will not be the primary way for finding books to read (though that is a good way to learn a lot about fiction). Instead, most users will find a book they already know through the author/title index and turn to its entry. There Pearl and Cords provide a quick book summary, a list of descriptors, and abundant suggestions for further reading. Looking at the "Now Try:" portion of each entry, readers will find other novels by the same author, fiction by other authors, and even nonfiction suggestions. After some entries are special "Now Consider Nonfiction ..." boxes with even further suggestions.
Because I most like novels or collections of short stories that take me to other times and places, Chapter 1: Setting is the portion of the book that most interests me. What separates these books from being categorized as "historical fiction" and sent instead to a genre guide in the Genereflecting Advisory Series is that these titles have proved to be popular with the general reading public. Many of the books are award winners and have been selections for book clubs. Cords says that these titles may, of course, be categorized differently by different guidebook authors; readers' advisory is process to find good reading, not a final categorization of books.
The many descriptors for the titles are arranged in the subject index. While some are traditional LC or Sears type heading, others are terms commonly used by librarians, such as "Gentle Reads" or "Quick Reads." Librarians with a slew of literature students with ethnic studies assignments may use terms like "Chinese Authors," "Mexico," or "Multicultural" to identify titles for these students. Book winning titles can be found in the subject index as well through web links identified in an appendix for awards and prizes.
Many librarians may be reluctant to buy a reference book right now with their dwindling funds, but Now Read This III can be seen as tool to make better use of established collections. Spring for it.
Pearl, Nancy and Sarah Statz Cords. Now Read This III. Libraries Unlimited, 2010. ISBN 9781591585701