How I Discover Books

IMG_20190731_082053If you follow me on Instagram (or just know me as a human), you know that I love giving book talks and recommendations. I also love to talk about different book-related resources and discovery tools. A while ago, a friend of mine requested a blog post that put all these resources in one place for all you bookish babes. I am, of course, here to please.

First of all, I’m obviously going to say, “GO TO THE LIBRARY!” Librarians are on hand to offer you on-the-spot book recommendations, and they (read “I”) love to do it. It’s like a fun puzzle that needs to be solved. You can also ask me for book recommendations directly. I adore giving recommendations and would do it all day long if I could. And if you haven’t tapped into the Instagram #Bookstagram community yet, make sure you get on that! Book recs all day long!

Below is a list of websites, tools, apps, book boxes/subscriptions, and podcasts that I’m addicted to that help me discover books, talk about books, and manage my book ownership and reading life! All of these things I have tried and enjoy. Warning, quite a few things are specific to genre, so if you’re not a fan of that genre maybe it isn’t for you.

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Readers’ Advisory: Read-a-likes for Kurt Vonnegut by Women Authors

 

A friend of mine recently asked for book recommendations for her partner. Her partner greatly enjoys Kurt Vonnegut, but she’d love for him to try reading more books by women. She wondered…are there female authors who strike the same chord? Scratch the same itch? Hit the same nerve? Etcetcetc. When I asked further questions, she mentioned that she thought that what he loved most about Vonnegut was the humor.

This question kind of stumped me. As I wracked my brain to figure out who I could recommend to my dear friend that was both a woman and also a read-a-like for Vonnegut, I shorted out a bit. I haven’t yet read a lot of Vonnegut, so I’m working with a handicap. I decided to pull my resources and consult my boss, who is well-read, loves Vonnegut, and has an incredible sense of humor.

Here are both her and my suggestions for my friend’s partner:

44453Dorothy Parker: Parker’s writing is sharp, witty, and incredibly hilarious in the same cynical way as Vonnegut. Satire is absolutely her realm. She got her start as a theater critic and was one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table (along with Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood). Her writing stretches across so many different styles, including poetry, short stories, and screenplays to name a few. Fun Fact, she co-wrote the script for the ORIGINAL ORIGINAL A Star Is Born starring Judy Garland. I recommend perhaps starting with her Complete Short Stories. And if you want a taste of her wit, check out this delightful list of one-liners.

 

 

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Nora Ephron: Ephron, like Parker, is known as a prolific writer with a lot in her toolbox. She’s a journalist, screenwriter, essayist, playwright, and novelist, among other things. Most, but not all, of her writing has a strong vein of humor running through it. She writes from a frank perspective with a sharp wit, and while she’s not quiet Vonnegut-esque, she is absolutely a big name talent in humor writing! I would tell my friend’s partner to start with Wallflower at the Orgy, a collection of Ephron’s magazine writings published in 1970 that take a witty and cynical look at American culture. Ephron lived an incredible life which includes being one of the only people to know the true identity of Deep Throat before it was revealed decades after the Watergate scandal. Her perspective and talent oozes from everything she writes. She is worth your time and attention!

51keam5kkxl._sx330_bo1,204,203,200_Becky Chambers: Now we’re veering off a bit. I recently read the first installment of Chambers’ Wayfarers series and really enjoyed it!It was SUPER funny, smart, tender, and absolutely killed it as both a science fiction book and a story about found family. And if you like Firefly, Titan A.E., or Star Trek, you will probably enjoy these books. If my friend’s partner is into science fiction, I highly recommend starting there!

 

 

 

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Sarah Vowell: Vowell is more of a read-a-like for John Hodgman if you enjoyed Hodgman’s recent Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches (which I did, IMMENSELY). She writes deep-dive quirky non-fiction in a really unique style that can, I admit, be hard to get used to at first. It stops just short of stream of consciousness, but man is it witty and fun! If I had to giver her humor style an official designation, I’d say it is in the vicinity of wise-crackin’. I read her Unfamiliar Fishes, which is about the history of Hawai’i and how the US basically stole it, but for for my friend’s partner I think I would recommend he try Assassination Vacation, wherein Vowell takes a roadtrip across the US to visit places where significant political assassination occurred throughout history. Fascinating!

12868761Jenny Lawson: Lawson became a big name in humor when her hit memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir hit the scene in 2012. This book, which covers her childhood among other things, approaches the shit of life with humor and a big ol’ “Welp”. More appropriate for David Sedaris fans, I do think my friend’s partner will enjoy this first memoir from Lawson because it’s just so damn funny!

 

 

 

33381433Samantha Irby: (Unfortunately the only woman of color I’ve included on this list…please send me your WOC Vonnegut read-a-likes!!) Irby is a comedian and blogger known for her humorous blog bitches gotta eat and her wry, sarcastic style. Her gut-splitting essay collection We Are Never Meeting In Real Life was released in 2017 to rave reviews. This  is a great pick for my friend’s partner!

 

 

 

9780143128045Shirley Jackson: UUUHHHH WHHAAATTT?? Did your eyes just explode out of your head? This was no mistake, my friends. Yes, Jackson is known best for her haunting gothic tales, and yes I am contractually obligated to write about her as often as humanly possible.  But she also wrote about her family and what it was like to be a mother and the weirdness of life in a small community. Often these personal topics were treated with sarcastic wit. You can draw a direct line between this writing and her horror writing, but you will probably laugh more with her memoirs. I recommend my friend’s partner start with Life Among the Savages.

 

As you can see, many of these women write a lot in the “nonfiction” and “essay” genres. I find it interesting that some of the funniest writing I’ve ever read by women is, in some way, a truthful account of a situation or thought or experience or event. I think there is something to this–something that comments on the differences between how men and women interpret and experience the world. This was part of why my brain melted a bit when I first tried to contemplate this question.

My boss and I are still trying to think of additional authors who fit this bill (you thought I was out of them, ha!), so if you have any additional suggestions we would GREATLY appreciate you offering them up in the comments! It’s a difficult question because Vonnegut is so singular, and women are still fighting that ridiculous stigma put on them that they “aren’t funny”. That is incredibly false, of course, but it is still prevalent and blocks very funny women from getting their due. Let’s do our part to break it down!

Readers’ Advisory: Supernatural Thrillers With Female Leads

A friend of mine texted me this very wheelhousey RA question a while back…and I was very very excited.

“Hey! I need a book recommendation and I figured you were just the lady I should ask. Do you know of any good thriller type books to recommend? Something real disturbing. Preferably with a kickass female lead. Maybe supernatural?”

I only sent her a handful of the books below, but I thought I would expand the list here! In addition to her female lead request, I also made all of my recommendations written by women as well. I’ve read most of these, and the ones I haven’t gotten to yet I have sitting on my bookshelves, waiting for me to dive in!

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Reader’s Advisory: Native American and Indigenous Literature by Women

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Joy Harjo, looking like the amazing badass that she is.

This RA was for myself. I grew up in the Finger Lakes region, right in the middle of Haudenosaunne (Iroquois) territory. The Onondaga Reservation is a bout 40 minutes from the house I grew up in. They are The Keepers of the Fire, which means that in the metaphorical longhouse that the Six Nations create together, they are the central group. Physically, they are in fact central. This means that when larger events happen that include other member tribes, they usually happen on Onondaga territory. The Onondaga Reservation more or less acts as the capitol of the Iroquois Confederacy. I had excitedly planned to run the Trail Run 5k they host on the res for Thanksgiving this year, but I ended up deciding not to go home for Thanksgiving all together. I will absolutely run it next year, however, because I don’t really go to the res that often and it would be nice to run through it. Also, the registration cost for the race goes to the reservation, as far as I know. And who doesn’t love running a 5k at the ass-crack of dawn in super cold Central New York in November while potentially hung-over?????????????

Being from New York, where the Iroquois Confederacy (the original democracy in North America) and the Six Nations are still very influential, I could find and experience native and indigenous culture pretty conveniently. We have amazing museums, reservations that do programming, people with native roots who are willing to teach and educate the rest of us…it’s great! Well, I took that for granted (understatement). Pennsylvania does things differently.

Before I dive in to this post further, hit play on this badass #FeministFriday playlist crafted by Spotify and populated entirely by indigenous female musical artists. It’s fucking amazing. Enjoy while you read:

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The Shameful Book Club: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman for June

And the crunch begins for me to finish this book challenge! I’m months behind in all aspects. Ugh. But I’m finally at June, so here we go! As a very witchy person who absolutely loves the film adaptation of this book, it was really quick surprising to me that it took me so long to pick it up! When I worked at a small public library in the next county over, I saw a beautiful hard copy of Practical Magic in the pile for the book sale. I had to have it for so many reasons, but honestly the book jacket is everything…

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I just started reading Hoffman this past year. I started with her newest release, Faithful, and then jumped right to Practical Magic. Very rarely in my life do I feel that I encounter the right thing at the right time. As you read through my Shameful Book Club posts you will see a trend of me saying, “Oh, if only I read this when I was 15/13/18/24!” But no, I believe that picking up Hoffman at 29/30 is the best thing I could have done. She writes with such an amazing subtly, and her work drips with feminine power/pain/strength. Just what 29-year-old me needs! I love it!

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Readers’ Advisory: Fantasy for tween girls

pexels-photo-256546A skill that librarians must hone is Readers’ Advisory. This is, in simple terms, recommending books to people. But it can be a much harder job than it sounds. People will come up and ask things like, “I read a book recently about a beach. It had a red cover and I think there was a love story. I really liked it but cant’ remember the name. Can you recommend other books like it for me to read?” Obviously some follow up questions are necessary, as is making use of review websites, the library catalog and OPAC, and maybe even something a bit more intense (World CAT anyone?) to figure out what exactly they are talking about. You also have the, “I’m looking for more (insert genre) to read, any suggestions?” In this case, the questions you ask are really important. You need to know what about that genre the reader likes, what they have read in the past, any authors they’re in to, and even other genres they enjoy (because no genre exists in a vacuum). Readers’ Advisory can be so much fun, but if you don’t stay practiced in it, it can also be a horrible nightmare.

I read many books in a decently wide variety of topics and genres, but it is impossible for me to read or know of everything. In order to do RA well, I need to be using these different resources to confidently recommend books to patrons without knowing much about them myself. Another resources are my friends and coworkers, because they read stuff I don’t.

I don’t get to do a ton of RA at my current jobs, even though one is in a public library. And I’m moving to a new job soon where I probably won’t be doing any RA. This bums me out because I love RA and I need to practice RA regularly. Luckily, my friends have started to keep me busy. Recently I’ve had a few friends message me independently of one another, asking for book recommendations on one thing or another. I had so much fun filling their requests, and I thought I would post one of them here. I also would love to make this a regular thing on my blog, so if anyone has any RA questions, throw them at me! I’d love to give you a list of recommendations!

Ok, the question was from a friend asking on the behalf of friends of hers who said:

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