Affordable Readers’ Advisory Tools

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Establishing and Promoting

Readers’ Advisory in

Small and Medium-sized Libraries

RUSA CODES Readers’ Advisory Committee

ALA Annual 2006

Affordable Readers’ Advisory Tools

In developing this list of readers’ advisory tools, we have tried to focus on resources that have useful lists for librarians and readers, that are annotated, and that contain readalikes. The titles listed are core titles that will aid librarians in connecting readers to new authors and titles. As you consider building your collection of resources, keep in mind the reading interests of you community. If you serve readers who love mysteries and romances, perhaps you will concentrate your available funds on building a collection of tolls in those areas first, and then expanding to other genres. You can also tie your purchases in to staff development, if you need to build understanding in a particular genre, purchase a titles that will help you there. In all cases, be sure to make whatever resources that you add to your collection are available to both your readers and your librarians.

Under $50 (arranged by cost)
Pearl, Nancy. More Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2005. 286 p. $17. (ISBN 1570614350)
Pearl Nancy. Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2003. 287 p. $28. (ISBN 1570613818)

Pearl’s highly personal yet wonderfully encompassing grouping of titles around themes and moods are not reference works for Readers’ Advisory, but is an invaluable tool for creating fiction and nonfiction reading lists, working with demanding readers, or committing to multiple lifetimes of reading.

Various Authors. Read On…series. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited. $30 per title. Historical Fiction by Brad Hooper (ISBN 1591582393) is the first in a new series of brief readers’ advisory tools using informal annotated entries that focus on appeal factors and themes. Forthcoming titles include Horror (June 2006, ISBN 1591581761), Fantasy, and Crime Fiction.

Saricks, Joyce G. Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction. Chicago: American Library Association, 2001. 460 p. $38. (ISBN: 0-8389-0803-9)
Saricks, Joyce G. Readers’ Advisory Service in the Public Library, 3rd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005. 160 p. $38. (ISBN 0838908977)

An essential author for learning to practice Reader’s Advisory and for helping patrons understand and express their reading preferences, Saricks is at the forefront of the RA renaissance. Her vocabulary of appeal factors and ability to find the keys to unlock a wide variety of genres offer beginning Readers’ Advisors ample instruction for learning to quickly review and suggest books, and to talk with readers.

Burgin, Robert. Nonfiction Readers’ Advisory. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. 250 p. $40. (ISBN: 159158115X pb)

By applying the vocabulary of fiction Readers’ Advisory to nonfiction books, Burgin has opened up the rest of the library to readers interested in strong writing, good storytelling, and character development. Articles by the leading academic and practicing Readers’ Advisors help librarians understand what nonfiction readers are looking for, and when readers might ‘cross the aisle’ from their favored genre to another area.

Heising, Willetta, Detecting Women: A Readers Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Women, 3rd ed. Dearborn, MI: Purple Moon Press, 2000. 478 p. $45 (ISBN 0964459353)

One of the best indexed Readers’ Advisory sources, Detecting Women gives a brief overview of a Mystery author’s series, then lists the titles in order (extra slots are added to give librarians and readers a place to list titles published after the source was printed). Indexes include Mystery Types (police, PI, espionage, and the main character’s background), Character Names, and Settings. A chronology of publication dates, pseudonyms, and awards won round out this easy-to-use resource.

Herald, Diana Tixier. Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction. 6th

ed. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2005. 562 p. $45. (ISBN: 1591582865 pb)

Eight of the standard genre classifications - Historical, Westerns, Crime, Adventure,

Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror - are further divided into subgenres grouped by themes and settings. Herald identifies the benchmark authors, and gives lists of their titles within a particular subgenre. Each chapter ends with ‘D’s Picks’ which represents her ideal within the genre.

Under $100 – purchase any of the above titles, plus

Cords, Sarah Statz and Robert Burgin. The Real Story: A Guide to Nonfiction Reading Interests. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. 496 p. $55. (ISBN 1591582830)

This reference source is an ideal companion to Burgin’s book listed above – dividing nonfiction into ‘genres’ like Adventure, Travel, Biography and 10 others, developing a list of appeal factors and providing benchmark titles for readers. Cords also identifies books to start with, and fiction readalikes that may appeal to readers.
Pearl, Nancy and Martha Knappe and Chris Higashi. Now Read This: A Guide to

Mainstream Fiction, 1978-1998. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999. 432 p. $65.

(ISBN: 1-56308-659-X)


Pearl, Nancy. Now Read This II: A Guide to Mainstream Fiction, 1990-2001. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2002. 300 p. $55. (ISBN: 1-56308-867-3)

Between the two titles, Pearl has listed 1500 books, mostly in ‘mainstream’ (i.e., not genre) fiction, divided into books that have strong setting, story, language, or character elements. Her ‘now try’ lists provide readalikes for the titles reviewed, which might be found in nonfiction, poetry, or genre fiction. Books that make strong candidates for discussion are highlighted for book group.

Various Authors. Genreflecting series. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited. $55-$75. This series offers excellent annotated lists of the benchmark titles in many genres (broken down by subgenres), along with readalike titles and subject headings. With titles covering Canadian, Historical, Christian, African American, Jewish American, Adventure/Suspense, Mystery, Horror, and Science Fiction, as well as Nonfiction, the series is also a good starting place for Readers’ Advisory in the topics local readers are most interested in.

Jacob, Merle and Hope Apple. To Be Continued: An Annotated Guide to Sequels. 2nd ed. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 2000. 376 p. $78. (ISBN 1-57356-155-X)

Series and sequels can frustrate readers and librarians, especially when publishers list titles by reverse publication date, alphabetically, or in some other odd fashion. The 1900 entries, alphabetized by author’s last name, lists series in numerical order (by publication, not by ‘to-be-read’ order). Title, genre, subject and literary forms index give ample cross-reference back to titles.

Under $200 – purchase any of the above titles, plus

Various authors. What Do I Read Next? series. Detroit: Gale. $130-175. The main entry in this annual series, indexes titles published the previous year but also recommends current and classic titles to readers. The six major genres are covered in each book, mystery, romance, western, fantasy, horror, science fiction. Each genre section begins with an essay describing trends and provides a list of recommended titles. The numerous and extensive indexes are especially useful for readers and librarians. Other titles in the series cover historical fiction, multicultural fiction, and children’s and YA titles.

There are several publishers who are regularly putting out readers’ advisory materials. It is a good idea to keep an eye on these sites to see what new materials are available to readers’ advisors.

  • ALA Editions --

  • Libraries Unlimited --

  • Neal-Schuman --

  • Thomson Gale --

In addition to print resources, there are an increasing number of fee-based online resources for libraries that are providing readers’ advisory services. Be sure to check with your state library as many times these resources are available at reduced rates to members of state consortia. Also, consider the possibility of grant funding to provide your readers with access to these resources. Here are some products to check out.

  • Bookletters –

  • Booklist Online –

  • The Fiction Connection –

  • Next Reads –

  • Novelist –

  • The Readers’ Advisor Online –

  • What Do I Read Next –

Where to find Book Alerts Online
What are Reader Alerts?

  • Web sites where you can request to receive an e-mail each time a new book is published.

General Readers Alerts:

  • Barnes and Noble Writer Alerts:

Readers can check over 40 different authors from general fiction, horror, nonfiction, science fiction, mysteries, and more. Each time one of the selected authors published a book, the reader will be notified by e-mail. Authors listed are the bestseller authors in each genre, and the nonfiction selection is very limited (and probably should be updated, since Stephen Ambrose is dead).

  • PW Daily
Daily e-newsletter from Publishers Weekly provides news on new

books and the publishing industry. Sometime a little heavy on

the publishing industry news. Newsletter is also available as an

RSS feed.

  • Amazon.Com E-Mail Subscriptions Alerts:
Book alerts include bargain books, business, current events,

health, mystery and thrillers, as well as the latest bestsellers.

General Readers Alerts (Cont.):

  • New York Times Books Update
Weekly e-mail provides selected reviews from the Sunday book

review section.

Genre Specific Alerts:

Both at --
These two e-alerts offered by Publishers Weekly provide weekly updates on religious literature, comics, and graphic novels.

  • Barnes and Noble Newsletters
E-newsletters available include children, Christian interest, and

mystery and thriller.

Publisher Specific Alerts:

This is just a sampling, if interested in a specific publisher, check their web site for their alert option:

  • Simon & Schuster: SimonSays

(then click on the “e-mail newsletters button)

Newsletters one can subscribe to include one specific to librarians,

and others on cookbooks, pop culture, self-help, science fiction,

romance, and multiple newsletters for children and teens.

  • Random House: E-mail Newsletters
Newsletters available include: African American interest, health and wellness, business, and a librarian-specific newsletter.

  • Penguin Group: Newsletters:
Similar two other two, but does not have a librarian-specific

newsletter option.

Why develop a reading suggestion service?

  • Too few patrons coming to ask for help choosing books

    • They think it’s a trivial question

    • They don’t know that the library offers this service

    • They are too busy for an extended discussion of reading

    • They are unsure about how to ask

    • They are afraid of being judged on their reading tastes

  • Librarians do not get enough practice at doing readers’ advisory work

  • It is a way to get staff doing readers’ advisory work in a less threatening atmosphere

    • The face-to-face interaction can be hard at first, and this service gives some breathing room for the librarian and the reader

  • Reinforces that readers’ advisory work is not a ready reference process

    • It takes time to do properly

    • Your library needs to place a value on RA work

  • It documents the readers’ advisory process in a way that the face-to-face interactions cannot be tracked

    • This is useful both in working with readers and in justifying the value of RA service

  • Readers love it

    • It reinforces the value of the library to the community of readers

The Benefits of Form-Based

Readers’ Advisory Service

  • Re-establishes the library as a willing and able source of reading guidance.

  • Creates a sustainable connection between library staff and the library’s readers.

  • Allows patrons to seek reading advice in a manner that feels safer than face-to-face interaction.

  • Provides physical objects with which RA service can be promoted to patrons.

  • Gives patrons the vocabulary to make their reading choices coherent.

  • Melds technology with service successfully.

  • Allows routing of RA inquiries to most appropriate staff members regardless of desk schedules or work departments.

  • Provides the time and information to successfully respond to RA questions.

  • Enhances circulation of the collection, particularly older items and less-known writers.

  • Aids in collection development by highlighting what patrons are reading and drawing attention to high-quality titles that are missing.

  • Documents RA results for purposes of following up with patrons and creating data that can be studied or used for statistics.

  • Results in happy readers!

Best Free Readers' Advisory Web Sites

Genre Sites


  • Crime Fiction -- Brief biographical information and bibliographies for British mystery writers, including links to further Internet resources. ( 

  • Mysterious Homepage -- A guide to mystery and crime fiction on the Internet. Packed with information.

  • The Mystery Reader -- Reviews of mysteries of all sorts, arranged by type (police procedural, historical, cozy, etc).

  • Overbooked Mysterious Links -- A great collection of Internet mystery and detective fiction resources (

Science Fiction

  • Locus Magazine -- An online magazine with reviews, author interviews, a short story index, and more. (

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America -- Information for writers and fans of fantasy and science fiction writing, including
    reviews, reading lists and member fiction. ( 

  • SF Site: The Home Page for Science Fiction and Fantasy -- An online magazine of science fiction and fantasy, featuring reviews,
    reading lists and author interviews. ( 
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database -- Articles, books, news reports, obituaries, motion picture reviews

    and other material about science fiction and fantasy (

  • Uchronia - The Alternate History List -- This site is a searchable bibliography of over 2000 stories of "what ifs". This isn't exclusively for the science fiction crowd, people who enjoy military fiction, mysteries, historical fiction would enjoy this website too. (


  • All About Romance -- Reviews, reading lists, discussions, and author information. ( 

  • The Romance Reader -- Large collection of reviews, as well as author information and articles. ( 

  • Romance Writers of America -- Romance novel database, descriptions of romance types, reviews, links to author websites, and more. (   

  • Romantic Times -- An online magazine for romance readers, with articles, reviews, and title lists. ( 


  • Read West -- The online magazine of Western literature. (

  • Western Writers of America -- Features the online magazine Roundup, with articles and reviews, and link to author websites and contact information. (

Historical Fiction

  • Historical Novel Society -- Reading lists, book reviews, writer's forum, author interviews, and an online reading group. (
  • Soon's Historical Fiction Site -- Reviews, book lists, lots of links to online information on historical fiction writers, and an extensive list of authors of historical fiction, with a short biography, lists of works and links to other information. (


  • Fantasy Author List -- An alphabetical list of suggested fantatsy writers, with annotations of the works listed. (

  • Fantsy Finder -- Reviews, booklists, and a great collection of links to author web sites (

  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America -- Information for writers and fans of fantasy and science fiction writing, including reviews, reading lists and member fiction. (

  • SF Site: The Home Page for Science Fiction and Fantasy -- An online magazine of science fiction and fantasy, featuring reviews, reading lists and author interviews. (


  • Dark Echo Horror -- Reviews, author information (

  • Horror World -- Reviews, author interviews, links (

  • Horror Writers Association -- Reading lists, information for horror authors, links to other resources. (  

  • Necroscope -- Reviews (


  • Christian SF/Fantasy Recommended Reading -- A bibliography of books, magazines and Internet resources (

  • Ellie's World of Christian Fiction (

General Sites

  • BookSpot Features book related resources on the web. The site includes links to book reviews, lists of books for children, electronic books, and bestseller lists. BookSpot also has information on joining or starting online reading groups and book clubs.(

  • Fiction-L This site contains numerous reading lists prepared by librarians who are members of Fiction-L -- an Internet discussion group dealing with popular fiction. List topics include Christian fiction, Humorous Mysteries, Fiction Set in Scandinavia, and many others. (

  • Genreflecting This site contains reviews of current works in genre fiction -- histories, science fiction, romances, fantasy, and mystery. There is an archive of reviews from 1996, and a few bibliographies and booklists, as well as a set of links to other genre fiction sites. The site is managed by Diana Tixier Herald, author of Genreflecting. (  

  • Mostly Fiction A list of links to over 1,400 reading lists from libraries across the country arranged by genre and topic. Developed by Molly Williams of the Waterboro (ME) Public Library. (

  • Over Booked This site is an extremely useful index to book information on the Internet. It contains links to a variety of book review sites, including newspapers, links to author information sites, book awards, publishers, genre fiction, world literature links, and more. (  

  • Web Sites for Book Lovers The Morton Grove (IL) Public Library's extensive collection of links to online resources for readers. Includes links to reviews, publishers, genre fiction, fiction discussion lists, awards, etc. (
  • What's Next: A Guide to Books in Series A database of adult fiction in series. Searchable by author, title or series name. A quick way to establish the order for fiction in series. ( 

Book Discussion Guides

  • Henry Holt Reading Guides  Plot summaries and discussion questions for titles published by Holt. (

  • Little Brown Reading Guides  Discussion questions for titles published by the Little Brown Company. (

  • W.W. Norton Reading Group Guides  Guides for titles published by W.W. Norton and Company. (

  • Random House Reading Group Center  Random House offers reading guides to titles published by Vintage Books, as well as lists of recommended titles and information for book discussion leaders. (

  • Reading Group Choices  The Reading Group Choices site provides information on starting a book discussion group, suggestions for discussion leaders, and most importantly, a searchable database of book group discussion guides. The database includes phone numbers and web sites for publishers' reading group guides. (

  • Reading Group Guides All types of information on starting and running book discussion groups. Gives suggested titles and sample questions for numerous titles.(

  • SimonSays Reading Guides  Links to discussion questions on titles published by Simon and Schuster. (

How to do RA

  • ARRT The Adult Reading Round Table of Illinois (


  • Acqweb’s Directory of Book Reviews (  

Discussion Lists

  • Fiction_L An electronic mailing list devoted to reader's advisory topics such as book discussions, booktalks, collection development issues, booklists and bibliographies, and a wide variety of other topics of interest to librarians, book discussion leaders, and others with an interest in reader's advisory. (

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