Blog - Library Services Centre

When I was 16, a friend of mine asked me if I’d heard of NaNoWriMo.  It turned out that there was this event going into its second year called National Novel Writing Month, where the goal was to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.  Both of us were writers and at 16, my only real time concern was being in my last year of high school, so we decided we would both sign up and attempt this challenge.

 

NaNo (as it’s known to us Wrimos) was small back then, at least compared to today; its inaugural year in July 1999 featured a whole 21 participants.  By the time I heard of it, I was one of 5000, and the event was being reported in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post.  I won that year with a terrible novel about vampires, a talking cabbage, and a hellhound named Fluffy, because when you need to write 50,000 words in a month, reality is the least of your concerns.  I’ve participated every year since, in both the original NaNo and in the spinoff Camp NaNoWriMo, which began in 2011 and allows me to choose my own wordcount goal rather than sticking to the 50K.  I’ve also won every year, sometimes legitimately, sometimes by cheating... I mean, rebelling.

 

In 2003, NaNo’s founder, Chris Baty, wrote No Plot? No Problem (updated and revised in 2016), a guide to writing a novel, whether in 30 days or not.  My copy hangs out on my overburdened bookcase along with Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and Dreyer’s English. NaNo taught me a lot about writing a first draft quickly, including the fact that it will suck and that’s okay.  As King says, you write your first draft with the door closed.  And preferably locked, when you live with your parents or roommates who inevitably want to know what you’re doing (writing), why (because I want to), and if they can be characters in your story (no).

 

In past years, there’s usually been one or two news articles or blog posts questioning NaNo and whether it’s ruining the sanctity of the written word.  They usually point out that a novel written in 30 days probably isn’t very good, and also such a singleminded focus on length won’t improve that.  This is true.  A novel written in 30 days will be awkward and ungainly, full of run-on sentences, illogical actions, and plotholes you can drive a truck through.  Characters change names, appearances, and occasionally gender.  Authors forget how to English (or whatever their language is), as proved by the hilarious NaNoisms thread that pops up every year for participants to chronicle their worst typos and brainfarts.  At the end of the month, you have a novel that is certainly not in any state to be published, or even shopped around to agents.

 

That’s not the point.  The point of NaNo is to get yourself writing.  It’s to train yourself to sit down in your chair, put your hands on the keyboard, and write some words.  Sometimes that’s only a sentence.  Sometimes you drag out the first few (hundred) words and your muse finally engages and you’re off flying, words spilling out so fast your fingers can’t even keep up.  Either way, you’re doing something many people say they’ll do but never carve out the time to actually do it.

 

Of course, there are plenty of novels out there that started as NaNovels and were beaten into submission, polished, and published by real live publishers.  They include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Wool by Hugh Howey, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and many more.  And this year, though I haven’t actively been searching for any, I haven’t seen any handwringing about how NaNo is destroying writing as an art.  I have seen news articles, pep talks from famous authors, and library programs in areas like Burnaby, Montreal, and Cambridge’s Idea Exchange.  I’ve seen another official NaNoWriMo handbook in Brave the Page, a juvenile nonfiction guide and inspiration for middle graders.

 

In the 18 years I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, I’ve written almost 1 million words.  I’ve written halves of novels, full novels, short stories, novellas, 104K in a month, 50K in 6 days (Surgeon General’s Warning: not recommended unless you like uncontrollable tremors).  Whether I finish a full novel or rebel by rewriting older stories (or by writing blog posts), NaNo has taught me to just put my head down, stop complaining, and get it done.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

When it comes to categorizing fiction, mystery, thriller, and suspense are words commonly used to define genre, but if you’re anything like me, you might have trouble defining exactly what the difference is between them.

 

While the three do overlap a great deal, they are actually separate genres. To make matters more complicated, the terms tend to be used so interchangeably, that identifying where in your library they belong, or even making a recommendation to a patron eager for one or the other becomes a challenging task.

 

In recent years, the mystery, thriller and suspense genres have been grouped under the crime fiction umbrella. In these genres, authors write about a crime that has happened or is about to happen, there’s an investigation of some kind, and a resolution where at least some of the reader’s questions are answered. So with all of these commonalities, how do you know which is which?

 

Let’s start with mystery. A mystery story is one where a crime is committed at the beginning, and the rest of the novel is devoted to figuring out the truth about the crime. Regardless of what kind of mystery it is, there is someone investigating the crime. That person can be a traditional detective, a police officer, or an amateur sleuth with a day job.

 

The novel is also basically one big puzzle, with all of the “pieces” needed to put it together being contained within the novel. Readers of mystery novels typically enjoy trying to solve the crime alongside the investigator, and personally, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from figuring it out before the investigator does. 

 

Shari Lapena’s novel An Unwanted Guest is an example of the locked room type of mystery that was perfected by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie. In a locked room mystery, the murder is committed under circumstances where it would be seemingly impossible to get in or out of the crime scene, includes a number of suspects with no way to leave or be rescued, and the plot is resolved at the end.at the end. Christie's famous novel And Then There Were None is one of the bestselling crime novels of all time, and Lapena’s book has a similar feel.

 

The guests arrive Friday night for a weekend stay at an Inn in the Catskills and are immediately snowed in with no way to leave, no phone service or internet access, and no power. One of the guests is murdered, and naturally, the murderer has to be one of them. As the weekend progresses, the bodies start piling up, and it’s a race against time to figure out who the killer is before it’s too late.

 

Thrillers are a bit more difficult to define- especially since many thrillers can also be something else. The protagonist is in danger right from the outset, and the plots are extremely action driven. Thrillers are high stakes, non-stop action, contain plot twists, and move at a rapid pace. In these stories, solving the crime is less important than the obstacles placed in the hero’s way, and how they overcome them.

 

Thrillers can be psychological, crime, mystery, action, military, legal, or spy, and illicit an intense reaction from the reader.  Series like Jack Reacher, and Alex Cross or Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects are examples of popular thrillers, the latter being a good example of the psychological subset.

 

Suspense novels are also tricky to define as they tend to be more subtle. Suspense novels are about the build-up and the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know something is about to happen. Reading a suspense novel is like cranking the handle on a jack-in-the-box and waiting for the figure to pop out when the melody is done. You know before you start turning the handle that the joker is going to pop out, but you still jump when it does.

 

Adrian McKinty’s The Chain is a great example of a suspense novel.  On a day that starts out like any other, Rachel receives a phone call informing her that her daughter was kidnapped while waiting for the school bus. The caller is the parent of an already kidnapped child, and informs her that she is now part of something called the chain.

 

Rachel has 24 hours to follow specific instructions that will get her daughter back which includes kidnapping another child to keep the chain going. If she fails to do what she's told or tries to involve the police or anyone else, they will kill her and her daughter and find a new target. Who is behind the chain is secondary to what Rachel must and will do to get her daughter back. It’s intense and terrifying, and the kind of novel you read in one sitting.

 

Regardless of which genre you prefer, there is one key component that is present in all successful mystery/suspense/thrillers and that’s suspense. The author makes the reader feel excited and/or anxious about what’s going to happen next. Suspense is what drives me to stay up all night reading because I can’t put it down, or has me so engrossed that I miss my bus stop (which I have numerous times) and don’t hear the phone or the doorbell when it rings. That feeling is what draws me to these genres over and over again, and why the world will always embrace them both on the page and on screen.6 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!  

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Ah, fall. Crisp air, falling leaves…and snow. While the weather may not always be predictable, we can always count on the post-American Thanksgiving period to be the biggest season for video game releases. And this year, along with new games, there is an exciting 'new' platform release (and its not the PS5)!

 

One of the most popular series, and a family and library favourite, is Just Dance. Kids love it because it’s fun and it has all the hit songs. Parents love it because while their kids may be playing video games, they are also staying active. Parents also have the chance to learn what songs are currently "cool" and can attempt to be hip, while almost certainly failing. Certainly, it gives dads a chance to bemoan the lack Bon Jovi in the game, and how that was "real music", to the eye roll of confused and embarassed children everywhere. This year’s Just Dance includes songs from artists such as Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Panic! At the Disco, Cardi B, Billie Eilish and many more songs that make you want to…Just Dance! 

 

The 2020 edition is available for Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and yes, the Wii. This is the only physical game release remaining for the Nintendo Wii, and UbiSoft just announced that it will be the last title released for this platform. This move solidifies the fact that Nintendo is moving full-steam ahead with the Switch Platform, with no plans on going back to the disc format that was the Wii. 

 

Add to this the release of Nintendo's exciting ‘new’ platform, the Nintendo Switch Lite. This more affordable version of the original Nintendo Switch basically combines the Nintendo DS with the Nintendo Switch, giving more people access to the great family games that the Nintendo brand is known for. As the Nintendo Wii and Wii-U are being phased out, more libraries are starting to collect this new platform.

 

Headlining the Switch releases this year is Luigi’s Mansion 3. This series began back in the olden days in 2001, when the Nintendo Game Cube was all the rage. Its somewhat surprise success lead to Luigi’s Mansion 2, available only on Nintendo DS. Now, with updated graphics, Luigi continues battling his demons – literally – in Luigi’s Mansion 3. He and his brother Mario, along with Princess Peach, a bunch of Toads, and Luigi’s pet dog Polterpup, receive an invitation to stay at the fancy hotel ‘The Last Resort’. Luigi soon finds out that the hotel is haunted, and must battle his way through to save himself and his friends. This third person player game contains a single player story mode as well as a multiplayer co-op mode. 

 

This year's AA PlayStation 4 exclusive is the star studded Death Stranding. The new game from industry titan Hideo Kojima is one of the most talked about games right now. An open world action-adventure game taking place in an apocalyptic United States, Death Stranding can be played as a single or multi-player game. Aside from the beautiful graphics and gameplay, this game also features motion capture, 3D scanning and vocal performances from actors including Norman Reedus (the game’s main character and star of the hit series ‘The Walking Dead’), Mads Mikkelson, Margaret Qualley and more. Film directors Guillermo Del Toro and Nicholas Winding Refn are also featured. Not only does this game have an incredible cast, it is also getting rave reviews from critics. This is definitely a ‘must-have’ for libraries. 

 

It wouldn't be a release seaso without a gritty first person shooter, and this year serves up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for both the Xbox One and PS4. This is the sixteenth installment of the incredibly popular series, as well as a reboot of the Modern Warfare subseries (video games can be as confusing as comic books sometimes). Set in the "real world", the game allows players to assume the roles of American CIA operatives or British SAS forces, combating Russian troops in a fictional, vaguely Middle Eastern country. 

 

Also for the Xbox One and PS4 is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. For those who can't wait until December for their latest Force-fix comes this new adventure from a long time ago, and far far away. Set between Episode III and the original Star Wars film, the game lets players assume the role of a Jedi-in-training on the run from the Empire and Darth Vader, who are combing the galaxy and destroying all the Jedi they can find. This game is "in continuity" with the films (Star Wars is definitely as confusing as comic books), and features Forest Whitaker reprising his role from the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which also takes place in this timeframe.

 

Rounding out the family friendly titles, Jumanji: the Video Game, avaialble on Nintendo SwitchXbox One and PS4 lets players become one with the video game setting of the most recent and forthcoming Jumaji movies. In this game, players can choose to play as Fortnight-styled version of The Rock, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, and Kevin Hart, and battle their way through the jungle. 

 

 

Other notable mentions this season include:

Doom: Eternal – Xbox One; PS4

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020 – Nintendo Switch 

Garfield Kart: Furious Racing – Nintendo Switch; Xbox One; PS4 

Harvest Moon: Mad Dash – Nintendo Switch; PS4

Need for Speed: Heat – Xbox One; PS4 

New Super Lucky’s Tale – Nintendo Switch 

Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville – Xbox One; PS4 

Pokémon Shield – Nintendo Switch 

Pokémon Sword – Nintendo Switch

Zumba: Burn it Up – Nintendo Switch 

 

For a complete list of November/December releases, please see the Video Game New Releases – November/December 2019 catalogue Slist #42441

 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy gaming!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

LSC is excited to announce the launch of its newest search engine update: BISAC subject searching.

 

A lot has changed in the world of searching since we went live with our first online catalogue. Google and Amazon have changed expectations for how people search, and what kinds of results they get when they search. While much can be said about how both of those corporate giants push results to users, and searching on their platforms isn’t as effective as people think it is, the fact remains: you type a thing, and get results regardless. While LSC has long offered the most powerful ordering tool available to public libraries, built in-house by our programmers, the search feature has remained surgical rather than general. That changes today.

 

Using BISAC subject headings, our catalogue is now far more open to generalized searching, and far more forgiving to the kind of searching that people are used to in the modern day. Using nondescript terms like “cars” or “travel Canada” will now return a broad range of items, allowing users to browse available materials on subjects rather than locate specific items. You don’t need to know the exact BISAC heading - TRUE CRIME / Abductions, Kidnappings & Missing Persons, for example. “Abductions” or “True Crime” will return results.

 

 

 

It will, in fact, return too many results. You will get the “maximum number of results found” error. Which is why we strongly advocate making use of the many Limiters, including Format, Material Type, and Publication Date make this search all the more effective. With the BISAC search you can narrow your search to just paperbacks published in the next two months about “Cooking”, which will return a bountiful, relevant, current list that you are able to browse and order from at your convenience.

 

 

 

To increase the effectiveness of this search even further, users can now combine in any order words from the Title, Author, Series, Dewy and BISAC in the Keyword search for more structured results. “Oliver cooking” in hardcover from the past thirty days returns, for example, a single result – Ultimate Veg, by Jamie Oliver. A Keyword search of “Canada Train travel” – the sort of search you might run if a patron is looking for books on train travel in Canada and you just want to see what we have – with no limiters returns 5 results, pulling from both the title and BISAC.

 

 

 

 

This BISAC search ability greatly increases the power of catalogue, allowing users like you more flexibility in locating items for your library. And for the majority of items in our catalogue, this search is incredibly effective. However, nothing is perfect, and we admit that. Programming allows us to make use of only what is available. BISAC subject headings are provided to LSC as part of the OYNX feeds from publishers that we use to populate our catalogue, meaning these items are now BISAC searchable from the moment they are in our catalogue; no additional input from us is required. This is not the case for AV and Small Press materials, for which we do not receive ONYX information and are manually entered by staff in-house. Should publishers of these materials ever provide us with information we can import into our system, it would immediately be searchable. However, given these industries, this is unlikely to occur. As such, DVDs cannot be found using the BISAC search. Keyword, Title, and the Slists remain the effective way to located AV materials.

 

The desire to have a more generalized search in our catalogue was something we heard from library staff across the country. And when we hear a request like that, we listen. We take every bit of feedback we receive, and we turn it into action. Some actions take longer than others. Implementing this function was not a fast process, and refinements will continue to be made, as refinements are constantly being made to everything we offer. We appreciate and encourage libraries to let us know how they use all of our services, so we can continue to make improvements which benefit everyone.

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Clark.

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Today, let's take more than a moment of silence to remember and reflect on the brave and valorous individuals who have fought and sacrificed, across history and the world. May they never be forgotten.

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

If you’ve turned on the news lately, you may have heard of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who’s been making waves with her passionate speeches.  In August 2018, Greta began to protest climate change by sitting outside of Sweden’s national legislature, the Riksdag, with a sign reading Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate).  Her protests have inspired countless similar protests throughout the world, and Greta herself has been invited to speak on many global stages, including here in Canada.

 

Greta and her family will be releasing their autobiography, Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, at the end of April 2020.  For those who can’t wait for more information, however, Jeannette Winter has published a nonfiction picture book with the same title.  Other books featuring Greta’s story include Greta and the Giants by Zoe Tucker and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta herself.

 

Fortunately Greta isn’t the only one concerned with both the environment and our world as a whole.  Youth activism is on the rise, according to author and scholar Jessica Taft.  In the United States, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting have been campaigning for better gun control.  Malala Yousafzai has been working on behalf of girls and women since 2009, even surviving an assassination attempt.  Here in Canada, we have our own youth focusing on a range of topics, from Stella Bowles in Nova Scotia – whose juvenile nonfiction book My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River was recently nominated for the Forest of Reading – to Metis-Jamaican Larissa Crawford, and LGBTQ2+ activist Fae Johnstone.

 

Human impact on the environment and climate change have been big topics over the past few years.  In our recent election, climate change was second only to health care among Canadians polled by Ipsos.  The book world has seen a number of publications focused on the environment, climate change, and the plight of the natural world and its animals.  At the beginning of October, Kari Jones published Ours to Share: Co-Existing in a Crowded World as part of the Orca Footprints series.  The book focuses on the growth of the human population – from just a few hundred thousand people to our current population of nearly eight billion – and our impact on the world around us.  It’s a positive book, however, highlighting how we can share with our neighbours and what kids can do to help better the world.

 

One of the bigger issues in the climate change discussion is the issue of plastic.  Some steps have been taken to reduce our plastic waste – like encouraging reusable bags at the grocery store and charging for plastic ones – but there’s a glut of information out there that people may struggle to sort through.  The Plastic Problem by Rachel Salt. Written by a producer for the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE, the book breaks down the issues and lays out solutions.  For younger readers, there’s also Join the No-Plastic Challenge by Scot Ritchie, part of the Exploring Our Community series.

 

We’re headed into winter now and the forecast for the year is milder but stormier.  While I can’t say I’ll particularly miss the dreaded polar vortex, unpredictable and stormy weather is still a sign of climate change.  According to NASA, the rising ocean temperatures are likely to lead to an increase in extreme rainstorms.  In the winter, despite the colder temperatures, the increase in evaporated water can also lead to heavier snowfall.

 

All hope isn’t lost, though.  Many people all over the world, including youth activists like Greta Thunberg, are working towards reducing our carbon emissions, pollution, and plastic garbage.  This past spring and summer, the #trashtag challenge went viral, encouraging people to clean up an area near them and post before and after photos.  Much better than throwing slices of plastic cheese onto your baby.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Enjoy!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

LSC is closed today, to celebrate that most unifying of life's experiences: food. Grab yourself a slice of pie, enjoy the brisk chill in the air, peep some leaves before they fall, and give thanks for all things but especially libraries. They are awesome places, filled with awesome people. 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

In the 1800s, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to his "consulting detective." As Sherlock Holmes is described, he is a private citizen who puts his powers of deduction and his network of allies and informants to work solving the crimes of England and beyond. Now, in 2019 another detective has emerged, this time in the real world, helping to bring unsolved crimes to a close using technology and deduction. Enter: Billy Jensen.

 

Jensen began his career as a crime beat reporter in New York, but he quickly grew disillusioned with the dispassion involved in the industry. Show up, jot down the facts that the police can divulge, and whether it gets reported on depends on how sensational the crime was. This kind of reporting was not helping to solve crimes, only to melodramatize the effects of crime on certain portions of the population.

 

Jensen likes a mystery. He likes to see all the pieces of a mystery laid out, and to work through the process of drawing connections and solving the mystery. This might be exemplified by his taking on a decades old missing person case in his spare time: who is an actor in the original Star Wars movie. In an early scene, Obi-Wan interacts with essentially an extra briefly. The character has no lines, just a shrug. He received no credit in the film. However, this being Star Wars, this character has a name - BoShek - and extensive back story, and action figures. Yet the man who played him was a day player, and his identity was unknown.

 

Jensen began his investigation conventionally, but hit dead end after dead end. The identity of this actor remained illusive. Finally, Jensen posted the materials he had gathered online. He lacked some piece of critical information that would unlock the key, and he hoped that the internet might be a tool that could be used to fill in the gaps of his knowledge. And it paid off. A family member of the actor - now known to be Frances Tomlin - saw the post and reached out to Jensen. Definitive proof was provided. The mystery was solved. And there the methodmight have withered on the vine, were it not for another tragedy.

 

In 2016, Michelle McNamara died. She had spent years investigating (and naming) the Golden State Killer when the case had long presumbed to have gone cold. After her death, Jensen along with Paul Haynes and McNamara's widower Patton Oswalt finsihed the book she had been writing, later released as I'll Be Gone in the Dark. And inspired by her focus on bringing this case back to the surface and the killer to justice, Jensen began to wonder if there were other crimes that could be solved by a consulting detective. What if the internet could be used to solve actual crimes, not just identify unknown science fiction actors?

 

In an era of where everything is crowdsourced - medical costs, pet projects, films, video games, arts and crafts, the naming of NASA rovers and tugboats - the idea of using the captive audience of the internet is no different than the idea of Sherlock Holmes using his network of homeless people to gather information. I personal might not know anything about sports, but there are people out there who are experts on every minor aspects of every concievable sport. Jensen's idea was to leverage that expertise to solve crimes.

 

So he began, finding street level crimes that the police had reached a dead end on. Cases where video evidence was available, but all leads had gone cold. Jensen examined the evidence and picked out elements that could be used to generate new leads. A partical glimpse of a getaway vehicle? Post it to a car forum on Reddit, and someone will be able to identify the design of the bumper down to the production line. Have a good shot of sneakers? Someone knows how many pairs of that shoe were made, and where they were sold. Jensen took it a step further, and started using Facebook ads to push footage to people who lived within blocks of where crimes happened, as many crimes are committed by locals. 

 

The methods and successes of this Crowdsolving has been put into a new book, Chase Darkness with Me. Want to follow along as Jensen solves minor crimes, and works his way up to investigating the murders of the Allenstown 4? Want to learn how to solve crimes on your own, using the powerful potential of the internet and social media. Jensen lays out the rules, the things to avoid, and what hasn't worked for him. So we can all be the Sherlocks of our Baker Streets.

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Have you ever asked someone what they are reading only to have the answer be accompanied by a sheepish apology for reading it? “Oh, it’s my guilty read” they say, as though they were a 12-year-old caught reading  50 Shades of Grey.

 

Somewhere between learning to read and adulthood, the language we use to describe genre fiction changes and the general attitude towards it becomes outright snobbish.

Critics wrinkle their noses at ‘women’s fiction’, romances, or sci-fi as if they are somehow inferior to the ‘literary’ fiction’ title that is beautifully written but virtually unreadable.

 

And yet, while being nominated for an award or a strong media campaign definitely increases the popularity of some of these literary titles, for the most part, those aren’t the books that are receiving print runs in the hundreds of thousands, or flying off the shelves in bookstores and libraries.

 

In a 2014  New Yorker profile, bestselling author Jennifer Weiner, author of the recently released Mrs. Everything,  noted the disparity in how books like those that she writes are treated in comparison to perceived literary titles.  And yet, Weiner has a a degree in English literature from Princeton University, and her books have sold over 4.5 million copies.

 

To call Weiner's books fluffy and lightweight because she writes women's fiction is supremely unfair. Weiner’s characters are women with complex emotional lives who challenge stereotypes. Weiner writes these stories with charm and humour, and readers (including myself) respond in droves.

 

So why is there such a bias against genre fiction? One theory for the different treatment is the invention of the mass market paperback during WWII. Obviously, a hard cover book isn’t practical to stick in your pocket, and mass markets were cheap to produce, lightweight, and easy to carry around.

 

When paperbacks started outselling hardcovers, publishers started producing the more popular genre fiction in this new format to further bolster sales. As a result, genre fiction unfairly earned the reputation of being lesser than the realistic fiction being published in hardcover.

 

Speculative- fiction also suffers from a similar bias, with critics dismissing the genre as inferior and unbelievable. Believe it or not, when The Hobbit was first published in 1937, despite receiving a glowing review from Narnia author C.S. Lewis and The New York Times, Time Magazine didn’t review the U.K. or U.S. edition at all. When Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings books a little over a decade later, they received a similar reception, not receiving much critical notice until the sales of paperback reprints exploded on college campuses.  

 

I’ve always been a strong reader with varied tastes and I’m also a huge genre fiction reader. I read Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Robert Sawyer, all of whom are among my favourite authors, and whom I consider to be really great writers. 

 

Recently I read a really great  romance called Waiting for Tom Hanks. The heroine of the story is obsessed with the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-coms of the 90s, and is waiting for her own Tom Hanks (a sweet, sensitive, romantic  hero)  to come along. The story reads like a 90s romance movie, and it was a quick, fun read that will appeal to romance fans, and to anyone who has ever wished for their own romantic movie hero.

 

It’s the kind of book that is usually dismissed with words like “light”, “breezy”, and “fluffy”, or with the phrase “it’s totally unrealistic but…”  and this is the kind of language that really drives me crazy.

 

When I read I want to be engaged ,and I want it to make me want to know what happens next. I want a good story with 3-dimesnional characters and good writing, and most importantly, I want to be entertained.

 

We all live busy, stressful lives and we have to work at fitting in time to read. Why shouldn’t that time be spent reading something we enjoy, and why should anybody be allowed to shame us or make us feel badly for reading it?  Who cares if the book is commercial or if it’s not going to be nominated for a prestigious award?

 

There are an estimated 7.4 billion people in this world, and countless cultures and tastes. Not everybody enjoys John Grisham any more than everybody will enjoy Washington Black. For that matter, there are few books that my mom, my dad, my brother and I have all read and enjoyed.

 

I’m certain that my dad will love Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens because it will appeal to his sense of humour, but it’s definitely not something he’ll be passing along to my mom or my brother. My brother really enjoyed Kite Runner, but my mom couldn’t get into it and found it depressing.

 

Just like anything else, not all books are created equal. There are good books and bad books, but genre has nothing to do with it. Whether it be romance or mystery or sci-fi, if that’s what you like, read it, and don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of answering the question “what are you reading?”

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Happy Reading!

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

John Hodgman has described himself as a former weird 13 year old, who has made a career appealing to the weird 13 year old in all of us. For many of us, he remains the belligerent personification of the failings of Microsoft products. For others he is the cool voice of absurd reason in our ear-buds every week. The through-line in all of this has been his sardonic, laconic wit, put on display in four previous books and this October he will add a fifth as he achieves Medallion Status.

 

Hodgman has said that he never expected to become famous. He was the last person to every expect to be famous. No one expects a bespectacled, bookish, nerdy type to become a national icon. Such people were not prepared for the nerd revolution that gripped the early millennium, of which Hodgman became a patron saint. A native of Massachusetts, he grew up an only child imbued with, as he tells it, all the selfishness that that situation permits. He has described his parents more as old roommates, who happily shared their favourite movies and books with this increasingly weird kid who happened to be in their home. 

 

His career started as a literary agent, where he represented horror movie icon Bruce Campbell among others. Through this job he began writing columns and small humorous essays for McSweeney's. This inspired in him to write a book that had been long simmering in his brain, a book inspired by the weird 13 year old he had curled up inside him, a book of lies masquerading as facts delivered with the straight face and earnestness of a bookish New Englander. This was An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects. As the title might suggest, absurdity ran amok.

 

Here things might have ended for this whimsical nerd, were it not for an opportune interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart called his chapter on 700 hobo names, which lists the 700 most common hobo names, a "kind of genius," and Hodgman conducted the appearance in "character" as John Hodgman, Expert, for whom certainty is absolute. The segment was a hit, and Hodgman was invited to join The Daily Show as it's Resident Expert, appearing from time to time to lampoon whatever craziness was happening in the news as though it were normal and natural, and above all, Known To Be True.

 

Hodgman's international recognition came from his role as PC in the incredibly popular Apple "Get A Mac" ads, alongside Justin Long's Mac, where PC would flounder at simple tasks while Mac looked on with pity. These ads brought fame and fortune to Hodgman, and an unexpected, mid life career as a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, the character through which he wrote his second book and direct follow up to Expertise (the page numbers continue from the original, as though it were a single tome, For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects

 

In these waning days of the aught decade, social media became prevalent and Hodgman used his Minor Fame to develop a large following on Twitter (@Hodgman) and later Instagram. As the Mac ads came to end, he began acting in earnest, appearing in small rolls in niche series like Flight of the Concords, Battlestar Galactica, and Bored to Death. During this period he took on a new character, a Deranged Millionaire, and in this guise wrote the final book of complete world knowledge, That Is All, which while still featuring the absurdest humour of the others is also a meditative and somber examination of sudden and unexpected fame. He released a Netflix comedy special to promoted the book, Ragnarok, which has since been removed to avoid confusion with the most recent Thor movie. As Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, so too did Hodgman. And then he did as many white dudes in the 10s were want to do: he started a podcast.

 

Judge John Hodgman is a comedy justice podcast, set up like court TV shows like Judge Judy. Real people submit petty and hilarious disputes on which Hodgman listens to their arguments, cracks jokes, and issues rulings. For nearly a decade, he has dispensed swift justice weekly from his chambers in Brooklyn on the Maximum Fun network. And through his Fake Internet Court he has built up a large backlog of Settled Law: hotdogs are not sandwiches, about which he debated Stephen Colbert; weird dads are the font of all embarrassment to children in the world; and husbands always come up with systems to make things easier which in practice never make things easier and are nearly always the wrong way of doing anything. 

 

In the last decade, Hodgman has continued to be a part time actor, most recently appearing in the second season of Amazon's The Tick, but he has largely dropped the characters of his past and is now just Hodgman, a weird 13 year old turned Weird Dad. He wrote of these experiences in 2017's Vacationland, which began as a one man show and series of essays on his teenage children, the summers that his family spend in Maine (a world of Painful Beaches), and losing his parents at different times in his life. The book is his personal crisis of discovering the "awful truth of my life, which is that I am a strange, white, male monster with bad facial hair staring down what... I hope is the beginning of the second half of my life and not the brief, final tenth."

 

This month he releases a companion volume, Medallion Status in which he details his new career as a professional Delta Airlines passenger while crossing North America on book tours, taking acting jobs, and dispensing Live Justice for performances of the his podcast. Where Vacationland looked as this personal life as an aging man, Medallion Status will examine the second act of a career he never expected to have and still is uncertain if he earned, as objectified by his Delta medallion status and access to the privileged and secretive Delta Sky Club (which, I highly recommend his appearance on the Dough Boys podcast in which they review the buffet of the Sky Lounge).

 

Those near to the GTA have the opportunity to see some Live Justice this November, as Judge John Hodgman and his bailiff Max Fun founder Jesse Thorn come to the Danforth Music Hall for a night of good clean rulings and musical accompaniment. I have seen Hodgman live three times, and his wit is no less weird, his delivery no less straight, but his empathy so much more on display. 

 

To keep up to date with all of LSC’s latest offerings, please follow LSC on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter, and to subscribe to our new YouTube Channel. We also encourage you to subscribe to the weekly Green Memo, and we hope you check back each and every week on this site for our latest musings on the publishing world.

 

Yours, Fictionally

Subscribe to this Blog Like on Facebook Tweet this! Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn

Contributors

Stef Waring
10
December 9, 2019
show Stef's posts
Rachel Seigel
12
December 2, 2019
show Rachel's posts
Karrie Vinters
4
November 25, 2019
show Karrie's posts
LSC Library Services Centre
10
November 18, 2019
show LSC's posts
Michael Clark
9
October 7, 2019
show Michael's posts
Dale Campbell
1
June 24, 2019
show Dale's posts
Sara Pooley
3
May 13, 2019
show Sara's posts
Angela Stuebing
1
March 25, 2019
show Angela 's posts

Latest Posts

Show All Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Everything Adult Fiction Adult Non Fiction Children’s Fiction Children’s Non Fiction Graphic Novels AV Multilingual Services Announcements Holidays Social Media Events