I’m so very pleased (actually giddy) to say that this post will appear on April 6, 2012 as the first of their “Librarian Voices” columns at NetGalley.
It can be fun to look at someone famous and say “I knew you when…”, particularly when that “someone” is a book, and the “when” in question is waaaay back before that book came out, and no one knew the book was going to be as hot as it turned out to be.
Or when you’re looking at the ALA Notable List, and remembering when you picked up the ARC at a conference, or got the egalley from NetGalley, because you thought it might be good, and, lo and behold, there it is, an award-winner.
Sometimes, you read a book, and you know it’s special. Then you tell everyone you know until they’re sick of it, and you. Unless you’re very lucky, and it’s your job to help people find their next perfect read.
The ALA Notable Books List is always interesting and useful, because as soon as I see it, I look at it and go, “oh, that one was popular”, “oh, that’s an interesting choice”, or “mmm, I can see why that got picked.” In collection development, it always made for a list of titles to check, but they were usually ones the library already owned. We’d miss one sometimes, especially on the poetry portion of the list!
Maybe it’s because I’m personally a genre fiction reader, but the ALA Notable Books List always seemed like the “big books” list, Not big in the sense that they’re long books, but big in the sense that they’re literary, at least on the fiction side. These are “important” books, even when they are also very, very popular. Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’sWife was one book that we just couldn’t get copies of fast enough. I remember seeing it in NetGalley before the pub date, and I wish I had snagged it then! Then I would have known in advance it was going to be big!
There’s another ALA list, one that reflects what people read for pleasure, instead of the important books. It’s The Reading List that RUSA CODES publishes. This list has categories for genres like “Science Fiction” and “Mystery” and “Romance”, you know, the good stuff. (I’ve never been so sure about that “Adrenaline” category.)
Genre fiction sells, and genre fiction circulates. That’s what circulation statistics show, and publishing numbers and everything else. The books on this list are the ones that people will enjoy.
And they’re fun.
The trick for librarians is picking out which one, or ten, are going to stand out from the crowd. It’s hard because the genre field is crowded and very diverse. Each genre can feel like its own little planet, and the galaxies can seem light-years apart. Lists like this are great navigational tools.
Each title on the fantasy list this year is absolutely marvelous. One of my favorite books of the year, The Magician King by Lev Grossman, is on the short list. The short list! It’s not even the winner! I knew when opened the first page of that egalley from NetGalley that it was going to be one of the big books of the year. But as far the winning title is concerned, as soon as I saw the NetGalley description for this title, it was clear that Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was something special. The circus arrives and it brings magic.
On the 2012 list, one of the shortlisted titles in the romance category is Kristan Higgins’ My One and Only. I resisted the impulse to get an egalley last year, but Higgins new book, Somebody to Love, is available now. And I have an egalley from NetGalley.
Maybe Somebody to Love will be on the RUSA CODES Reading List in 2013. And I’ll be able to say that “I knew it when…”