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Book Recommendations & Other Musings

by Carol Tuttle

Carol Tuttle, Collection Services LibrarianThe Trouble with Labels

When a reader wanders the library shelves looking for a mystery, what better way to find one than by the mystery sticker on the spine? WAIT. When you said you wanted a Mystery, did you mean a cozy by-the-fire mystery with puzzles to solve? Or did you mean a police procedural with Law and Order plotlines? Or did you mean a suspenseful thriller with a side of blood and gore? One person’s Mystery is another person’s horror!

Libraries like to categorize and sort, creating efficient ways to connect patrons with what they are seeking. That’s why we rely on the Dewey Decimal System for nonfiction. And genre labels for fiction. But there’s a problem with librarians sticking genre labels on books: Genre (categories of fiction writing) is subjective. Use the spine stickers as a guide when making reading choices. The sticker’s purpose is to give some indication what your reading experience from the book will be.

Some authors write in multiple genres: James Patterson has just released Sophia, Princess Among Beasts which is a story of a princess, a kingdom, and beasts that are real (sounds like a Fantasy sticker?); Charlaine Harris writes mysteries and also fantasy/paranormal and now has her first in the Gunnie Rose series, An Easy Death, which is a thriller set in an alternate world dystopian America (sounds like a Sci-fi/Fantasy sticker?). A Nora Roberts book will usually have a Romance sticker but her recent Chronicles of One series is a departure from romance and could even have a Sci-fi/Fantasy sticker in your library. As librarians, we try to balance the convenience of genre stickers with the confusion they may create for the reader.  In some of our buildings, genres are interfiled on the same shelving and an author’s books will be located together on the shelf. In other libraries, an author’s books will be filed in different shelf sections according to genre of each title (so be sure to check for your favorite authors in more than one shelf location).

A single novel may contain a love story, elements of magic, and a puzzling crime. What genre would you give it? I call it Fiction. You can decide which fiction book is for you. And our library staff and our website resources like Novelist are helpful tools to use beyond the sticker (or lack of sticker) when making your reading selections.

Carol Tuttle is the Collection Services Librarian for the Willoughby-Eastlake Library System. She  is currently reading The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.

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