Sherrill, Erin, and I read very differently. Sherrill likes non-fiction including self-help and memoirs, Erin likes quirky books and is more likely than any of us to read things with science and technology including Science Fiction, I like fiction the best and the more romantic relationships in the book, the happier I am. You would think with that range of reading taste it would be impossible for us to agree on books. But we do, more often than you think.
We all use Goodreads to track our reading. Goodreads has a five star rating system so it is easy to figure out what books each of us liked in common. The top three books we agreed on are: The Painter Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, and Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. Today on Library Moments we will each tell you why we liked the books we share in common.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: Frequently I know that I liked a book but after a time for the life of me I can’t recall what it was about, at all. I read The Painted Girls, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry years ago and I enjoyed Fifteen Dogs in the summer of 2015. With these three novels I do remember something, and the memories come across in different scenes. With The Painted Girls I remember envisioning the squalor of the room the main characters lived in as well as the opulence of another room where a portrait was being drawn. With Fifteen Dogs I recollect a scene in a park in Toronto, seeing in my mind’s eye the park paths and the green grass between. And in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry I recall a bookstore – in my head it resembles our very own Master’s Book Store in Haliburton, a place I love. Place is the operative word here, when I’m remembering these scenes I am connected to the setting in the book and that is what makes me remember novels for years to come. Setting does not necessarily mean a geographic location, setting can also mean the atmosphere or background of a book. I’m not sure what the mixture is that makes a setting come alive for me, whether it’s words or what the character says or if I’ve been there or seen the places on television. What I do know is that when it’s done properly it’s meditation at its best, I’m taken to another time and place and come back refreshed.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: When I think about why I like a book, there are three things that I tend to key in on – the plot, the characters, and the writing. Of those three, I find the writing is what can really hold a book together. An unlikeable character or a plot hole I can overlook, but if anything is going to irk me it’s going to be the writing and something all three of these books shared for me was really really good writing. When I say good writing, I don’t necessarily mean flowery language, or overly complex sentences – what I mean is that the author has paid close attention to how they want their story to come across, and made sure that every word they use gives their story the impact that they want.
In The Painted Girls, Cathy Marie Buchanan is really effective at making the worst parts of Paris come alive – the dirty laundry in the laundry houses, the squalor in the streets, the smells. In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin uses wit and clever turns of phrase to make the entire book quotable – both the funny and the sad bits beg to be read aloud to anyone who will listen. In Fifteen Dogs, Andre Alexis takes on a challenge in imbuing non-human creatures with human characteristics yet making sure they never lose their dog-ness – it must have taken a lot of thought to figure out exactly how a dog would frame concepts such as love, loyalty, and happiness and then put that into human words.
There are many other things that made these three books excellent, but it was the writing that stood out to me in all of them. In these books, to quote A.J. Fikry, “Every word the right one and exactly where it should be. That’s basically the highest compliment I can give.”
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: For me a book sticks with me when I remember the characters long after I have finished it. Not only do I remember the characters I often feel that I know them. I like books in which I form an emotional attachment to the people in the story. I care about what they are thinking and experiencing. What struck me about The Painted Girls was the relationship between the sisters. Even in crushing poverty their resilience and desire to work as a team was inspiring. In the Storied Life of AJ Fikry I was drawn to the idea that family can be formed in unexpected ways. In Fifteen Dogs, dogs are given human intelligence but are still dogs in every other way, I was fascinated by the way they formed relationships with the humans they come in contact with.
When recommending books to people, library staff rely on what are called the “appeal factors.” When you know that you are drawn to books based on language, setting, character or another factor you will have an easier time choosing your next read and when you articulate those preferences to library staff they will have an easier time helping you choose it. As demonstrated today, a book can appeal to more than one kind of reader. The really interesting piece in all of this is that three readers can like a book and have a completely different reading experience from each other.
At the library we have varied tools that will help you to determine what kind of reader you are. Speak to a staff member at your local branch or go online at haliburtonlibrary.ca and visit the Readers’ Advisory section. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, April 17th – 23rd, 2016.