A guide to exploring new genres

Each year, groups of librarians from across the country hole up in a room (this year, a virtual room) to discuss and select the best books from the year before. The Notable Books List features literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry; the Listen List is all about outstanding audiobooks; and The Reading List, which I want to tell you about today, highlights outstanding genre fiction in eight genres: Adrenaline (aka thrillers, adventure stories), Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Relationship Fiction, Romance, and Science Fiction.

While each genre has a winner, it also has a four-title shortlist of runners up. Taken together, the five books in each genre represent a range of the types of stories a reader can find in that genre, with the idea that both longtime fans and folks new to the genre can find a title of interest. If you are looking to branch out into new areas of fiction reading, it is a great place to start. Check out the 2021 winners (for books published in 2020) below, with annotations from the ALA Reading List Council, or in our catalog.


The Holdout by Graham Moore
Ten years after Maya Seale convinced her fellow jurors to acquit a man of murder, a true crime documentary reunites the jury amid claims of new Continue reading “A guide to exploring new genres”

Magical Tales by Women of Color

I went on a search for stories with a magical theme to them by authors who are women of color. On my search I managed to procure these six stories for your enjoyment. They are all a little different, so hopefully you’ll find one to strike your fancy.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig is a novel with an unusual time traveling premise. To time travel you need an accurate map of when and where you want to go and a strong belief that time travel will work. Nix, our main character, is on her father’s ship as he time travels to Victorian Hawaii in an attempt to bring his wife, Nix’s mother, back from death. What will happen to Nix if her mother is saved?

Continue reading “Magical Tales by Women of Color”

Four Flights of Fantasy for Your Listening Pleasure

Tired of looking longingly out your window while stuck inside? Then escape into these fantastic worlds each offering endless hours of aural pleasure! Each of these first books in their respective series represent a different flavor in the enormous fantasy pie. Have a slice, or better yet try them all! Happy listening.

 The Belgariad Series by David Eddings, read by Cameron Beierle

Book 1: Pawn of Prophecy

[Epic Fantasy] For fans of classic Epic Fantasies featuring Good vs Evil and a band of adventurers on an epic quest like The Lord of the Rings and the Shannara series.
This epic fantasy classic is filled to the brim with all of the tropes and archetypes that have come to define the epic fantasy genre. The book opens with an excerpt from an ancient text- a historical accounting of sorcerers and magic, gods and mortals, and a wondrous orb of untold power. Then the story begins in earnest on a small farm in a serene countryside. There an orphan boy named Garion is about to take his first steps towards fulfilling his destiny. On his journey, fraught with danger and secrets waiting to be revealed, he will be guided by his Aunt Pol, an old vagrant storyteller who he calls Mister Wolf, and an ever-growing cast of adventurers. Following in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara, David Eddings’ The Pawn of Prophecy rightfully takes its place on the shelf aside those masterworks of epic fantasy. Continue reading “Four Flights of Fantasy for Your Listening Pleasure”

Always Open: Fictional Libraries and Bookstores

While we all ache and yearn to return to the dusty stacks where we find so much enjoyment, enlightenment, and entertainment, here are a selection of available eAudiobooks featuring Libraries and Bookstores that are always open!

Midnight at Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan, read by Madeleine Maby
This dark and suspenseful thriller starts with a suicide in the Bright Ideas Bookstore. When clerk Lydia Smith discovers the body of one of her favorite patrons inside the bookstore, she begins to unravel the puzzle behind the young man’s suicide and finds that he is somehow linked to her own disturbing and violent past- much of which has remained unsolved.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, read by Ari Fliakos
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is not at all what it seems. From the outside what merely appears to be an old used bookstore is in reality a repository for centuries old secrets. New clerk Clay Jannon is determined to decipher the clues found in the books within to finally bring these ancient secrets to light. An ode to the love of books and bookstores, Robin Sloan blends old knowledge and technology to craft a wondrous adventure spanning the invention of the printing press to the present day.
[Fiction] Continue reading “Always Open: Fictional Libraries and Bookstores”

Speculative Short Stories to Read or Listen to Online

Friday the 13th of March was a dynamic scene at the Central Library, with patrons queuing for help to find good books to read during the library’s closure, and the DVD aisles packed with browsers. I miss assisting patrons in person in finding a great story to read or watch – though do visit my colleagues at I at Your Next Five Books where we continue to advise readers and listeners online. Fortunately, there are many other ways to enjoy stories right now.

If you have internet access, here are some places to find speculative stories – e.g. science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, slipstream, and anything in the realms of the imagination. Because it times like these, we need stories that take us away from our current realities, don’t you agree?

Tor.com is a publisher of books, yes, but they also post full-text short stories, as well as blog posts about books and popular culture weekly. Stories are updated in the carousel at the top of the site. Recent stories stories have been written by the likes of Maria Dahvana Headley, Charlie Jane Anders, Harry Turtledove, Garth Nix, and Neil Gaiman. Continue reading “Speculative Short Stories to Read or Listen to Online”