If You Like This, You'll LOVE That! Nonfiction Reader's Advisory

At ALA last week, I participated in a panel called "The Great Non-Fiction Readalike: If You Like This, You'll LOVE That," which featured readalike recommendations in different subject areas based on carefully chosen "touchstone" books.

What does reader's advisory have to do with collection development? Good collection development requires a librarian to look ahead in the publication schedule and figure out what books patrons will need and want, based on the library's collection policies, patron requests, past demand, and intuition. Reader's advisory uses many of the same skills to match up patrons and books; the two processes are part of the same continuum of collection management and customer service. Ideally, patrons should end up checking out books they want to read and know that they can come back to the library for similar books.

What we were trying to address with the panel was a perception among librarians that it is somehow more difficult to recommend nonfiction books. Like fiction readers, nonfiction lovers want a good story. They aren't so concerned with subject matter lining up exactly between one book and the next, as long as what they're handed has a good hook. One of the things my co-presenters discussed during our panel was the reader's fascination with macabre and difficult subjects--murder, disasters, memoirs about dysfunctional families, the dark side of pop culture, and even a fascination with the human body itself. Needless to say, we enjoyed talking about our chosen books.

The touchstone books below are prominent works in each field, books that your patrons might read and then want More Like That:

Historical True Crime: Be Glad You Weren't There
Chosen by Alene E. Moroni, Manager, Selection and Order, King County Library System
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences

Sports Books: If You Don’t Have a Colon in the Title You’re Doing it Wrong!
Chosen by Anna Mickelsen, Reference Librarian, Springfield City Library
  • Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream
  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

My So-Called Screwed-Up Life
Chosen by Stephanie Chase, Systemwide and Virtual Information Services Administrator, Multnomah County Library
  • The Glass Castle

Pop! Goes the Culture: Pasties, Stilettos, Joy Sticks, and Some Really Mag Weed, Dude
Chosen by Kaite Stover, Director of Readers’ Services, Kansas City Public Library
  • Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker
  • Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul

Fun Science Reads – No, Really!
Chosen by Robin Nesbitt, Customer Experience Director, Columbus Metropolitan Library
  • Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them

For the full list of more than 100 readalike recommendations stemming from these touchstone books, both frontlist (published 2011 and 2012) and backlist titles, click here. Each title in the document is linked to WorldCat, and I have also indicated when an audio version is available--which is the case for more than half of the books selected.

To see our presentation slides (and all the pretty, pretty covers that go with the frontlist books), click here. Many thanks to the publishers who got us advanced copies of unpublished works, and to Chris Vaccari at Sterling Publishing and Ali Fisher at Macmillan for their expert assistance and gentle reminders.

ETA: The ALA conference also marked the first in-person meeting for me and Robin! OMG YOU GUYS SHE IS THE BEST. I think we should blog together.


Lois Leveen said…
This was a great panel . . . I almost never get to indulge in reading the kinds of books that were discussed (as a novelist, most of my nonfiction reading is devoted to research related to whatever I'm writing about), but the wit and insights of the panelists made me wish I could stop the world from spinning on its axis long enough for me to read many of these titles. Dammit, even the SPORTS BOOKS seemed interesting to me. How is that possible?
Helgagrace said…
Hooray! Thanks for your kind words!

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