Saturday, February 25, 2017

Week Seven Prompt: Book Controversies

I have not been affected by too many book controversies; the most recent I can think of involve children's titles, and I don't do any children's collection development. I do think it can be a struggle for libraries to balance popular titles with accurate titles. This is especially evident with popular medical books.

A 2014 study found that public libraries were woefully inadequate in answering a reference question to provide information about whether vaccines cause autism (Flaherty, et al.). Further study revealed that over 1400 libraries listed in WorldCat held David Kirby's Evidence of Harm, the discredited book linking autism to vaccines; another 5000 held Jenny McCarthy's books that propagate false health information (Flaherty, et al.). Those titles were widely known at the time of publication and got quite a lot of press.

My library did a complete inventory last year, and I was shocked to find Evidence of Harm still in the collection. It has since been weeded. I do wonder if someone will accuse our library of bias for not having this book, but I don't consider it any different than wedding a book with an outdated map.

Flaherty, M.G.m Tayag, E.K., Lanier, M. & Minor, J. (2014). The Jenny McCarthy conundrum:
     public libraries, popular culture, and health misinformation. Proceedings of the Association for
     Information Science and Technology. Retrieved February 25, 2017 from

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Annotation: Mysteries

The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell
Lillian Jackson Braun
Putnam Adult
208 pages

The town of Pickax is gearing up to observe its sesquicentennial. Local millionaire, ailurophile, and writer Qwilleran (Qwill) supports various events connected with the year-long celebration. Qwill lives in a converted barn with his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum, and the trio solve occasional mysteries. As part of the festivities, Harvey Ledfield, a young architect and nephew to the wealthy and childless Nathan and Doris Ledfield, comes with his fiancĂ© to sketch Qwill’s barn. During the sketching, Koko drops on Harvey’s head from above, something the cat has never done before.

Harvey’s fiancĂ© Clarissa calls off their engagement and moves to Pickax seeking work at the local paper. She becomes somewhat close to Qwill and makes several odd remarks about her relationship with Harvey and Harvey’s true intentions in Pickax. In a series of ominous events that cloud the town’s festivities, Harvey’s aunt and uncle become suddenly and mysteriously ill and eventually die. Qwill and his felines work together to get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths.

Mystery Appeal
The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell is the 28th book in Lillian Jackson Braun’s cozy mystery series. Danger and death are real, though they are never graphically described. This book shares many appeal factors with gentle reads, the small-town setting and lack of graphic language being the greatest examples.

This series appeals to mystery fans in several ways. It is the story of an amateur detective using his resources and connections to investigate murders. There is conflict involving greed, a disgruntled heir, and a disputed fortune. Despite the book’s rather thin plot, it is a whodunit that readers may enjoy figuring out along with the detective.

Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series
This is a cozy mystery series in which an American in England solves mysteries by communicating with the spirit of her mysterious, deceased benefactor. Be it from ghost or cat, if readers like an amateur detective who solves mysteries with unlikely help, they will enjoy this.

Ali Brandon’s Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries

This is a cozy mystery series in which a bookshop owner and her cat solve murders. It is intricately plotted and amusing, like Braun’s Cat Who series. Plus, cats!

Annotation: Science Fiction

Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
386 pages

Ancillary Justice is a space opera set in a far-future universe in which the Radch Empire annexes and controls many planets. The Empire implants artificial intelligence (AI) from sentient spaceships into humans to use them as hive-minded soldiers called “ancillaries”.

The story is told in timelines, one in the present and one twenty years prior. In the present, Breq, the only surviving ancillary from the ship Justice of Toren, is seeking vengeance for her destroyed ship when she stumbles upon an officer she knew years previously. In the past, Breq recalls the events leading up to Justice of Toren’s destruction as well as her complicity in Radch’s brutal regime of colonization. This is the first book in the Imperial Radch Trilogy. It won both a Hugo and a Nebula Award, among several others, for best novel.  

Science Fiction Appeal
Ancillary Justice contains many subjects favorite among science fiction readers: artificial intelligences, space flight, imperialism, and weapons. It is a dramatically-told revenge quest set in a futuristic universe inhabited by humans and aliens alike.

By telling the story from Breq’s point of view, Leckie gives the story of tone of “otherness” common to science fiction. Though more time is spent on world-building than characterization, the device of Breq possessing multiple intelligences offers an interesting discussion of what makes in individual an individual. Another device Leckie uses is gender. The Radch language does not recognize gender, so all characters are referred to as she unless proven otherwise. Leckie handles this well and it makes for an interesting reading experience.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
I would recommend the second book in the trilogy if readers like the first. Ancillary Justice clearly sets up a sequel and readers who like Leckie’s style will want more of the same.  

The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton
This book is also a compelling-written space opera about the politics of colonization. It contains a fair amount of world-building balanced by a dramatic tone and action scenes.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin     
This is the sixth book in a series set in a far-future universe. It is similarly thought-provoking and descriptive, though it has a slower pace than Ancillary Justice. Recommend this for readers who like Leckie’s take on gender and gender roles and want an expansion of that discussion.  


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Week Six Prompt: Horror Fiction Promotion

I want to do a horror fiction display during the month of October that includes an interactive component. I selected October because people who do not consider themselves horror fans often look for something scary to read or watch during the Halloween season.  The titles selected for display will include a variety of classic and contemporary horror and horror subgeneres with works by King, Straub, Little, Shelley, Barker, Harris, Lovecraft, Stoker, Hamilton, etc. It will include multiple formats like graphic novels and audiobooks.

The interactive component will draw library users towards the display. Users can pick up a paper with 5-10 silhouettes of iconic literary horror characters. Users can name the work or author the character is from and turn the paper in to be entered in a drawing for Halloween candy and a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

I think this promotion is accessible to everyone; most of the characters are recognizable from film adaptations. Further, users drawn to the display in hopes of winning candy and a classic book will be introduced to the variety that exists in the genre. This drives home the point that horror is mainstream and has a place in fiction.    


Annotation: Gentle Reads

The Shunning
By Beverly Lewis
Bethany House
282 pages

Katie Lapp is a twenty-two-year-old Amish woman who is preparing to marry the much-older widowed bishop of her community. Katie has always felt alienated from her Amish heritage. The only girl in a family of boys, she is drawn to forbidden music and pines for Daniel, the man with whom she shared a love or music and would have married had he not drowned. When Katie finds a satin baby dress hidden in her parents’ attic, it radically changes the trajectory of her life and calls into question her entire identity.

Gentle Reads Appeal
Though the story is fast-paced and suspenseful, the Amish setting gives the book a traditional flavor. There is no profanity, and while there is conflict and some characters are revealed to be complex, the genre is clearly Christian fiction. The tone is heartwarming, homespun, and moving; the writing style is richly detailed and peppered with insights into Amish life.

The Newcomer
By Suzanne Fisher Woods
The first book in the Amish Beginnings series is a richly-detailed account of an Amish church immigrating to America. The story involves the revelation of a secret and a chaste romance.

Her Brother’s Keeper
By Beth Wiseman
The first book in the Amish Secrets series includes a chaste romance and an account of Amish life from an outsider’s perspective. It is a bit edgier than many Amish series, but readers who connected with Katie Lapp’s crisis of faith will find this worth a read.

The Confession
By Beverly Lewis
This book is the follow-up to The Shunning, which ends on a cliffhanger.