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”

Amateurs Getting It Done

As an avid mystery reader, one aspect of the genre I love the most is knowing that however tumultuous the situation is at the beginning, by the end of the novel the state of affairs will be set right again. Real life is never so certain. Here are three mystery novels wherein regular everyday people solve crimes and put their communities to right.

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette
Win Crewse has returned to her hometown of Chagrin Falls, OH to take over and revitalize the ice cream shop started by her grandparents. When an old business enemy of her family returns to town, and is swiftly found dead, Win’s father comes under suspicion and Win starts investigating in order to clear his name. Can she convince people to buy ice cream in winter, and also find a killer? A gentle mystery with a winning heroine. Continue reading “Amateurs Getting It Done”

Book Series By Volume: Hard-boiled Edition

For this installment of Book Series By Volume I’m sleuthing out detective novels. There are several bulky series to look at, but I’ve picked my personal big three.

Harry Bosch Series by Michael Connelly

The 22 books cover about one and a half cubic feet, but Bosch shows up in a couple other satellite series by Connelly and is probably one of the more complex detective characters out there. Grizzled, aging, angry at the scrutiny his bosses in the LAPD put him under, and slightly annoyed at carrying the name of a well-known 15th-century Dutch artist, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is a detective from the old noir school of investigation. A deeply flawed man, Bosch is all too aware of his failings, but uses those perceived short-comings to bolster his unwavering belief in justice over correctness and justify his methods in achieving it. Despite being saddled with partners throughout the series, Bosch is an unapologetic loner, which is often what puts him in difficult positions. If you like gritty noir, this series should be on your nightstand. Continue reading “Book Series By Volume: Hard-boiled Edition”

If You Like Tana French

We librarians hear a lot about readers’ favorite writers, and some names come up over and over again. One of these is Irish mystery writer Tana French, whose gritty Dublin Murder Squad series provides the perfect blend of police procedure and intricate psychological suspense. Only trouble is, she doesn’t write them fast enough. No worries: here are some other terrific titles – many by less well known writers – that are sure to please.

The Dark Lake, by Sarah Bailey. When her former classmate is found murdered, Det. Sgt. Gemma Woodstock uncovers puzzling mysteries in the victim’s life, from her abrupt departure from a dream teaching job to her run-down existence in spite of wealthy family ties.

Lost You, by Haylen Beck. After a closing elevator door separates them, a single mother on vacation with her son discovers he has been abducted by another woman who claims she is his mother!

One Small Sacrifice, by Hilary Davidson. An apparent suicide. A mysterious disappearance. Did one man get away with murder—twice? It is Det. Sheryn Sterling job to find out. A riveting police procedural with a strong female detective and an intriguing antagonist. Continue reading “If You Like Tana French”

Defective Detective Departments

What happens when cranky, poorly motivated or seemingly-incompetent individuals are all sidelined together into a single work unit? They end up solving the mysteries that no one else could, of course. Or, at least, in fiction they do. These books are all the first in series that find professional pariahs taking care of business.

The Keeper of Lost Causes
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Chief Detective Carl Morck has always been difficult to get along with, but he was tolerated because he was good at his job. Sidelined after a shooting left him injured and his partner paralyzed, Carl finds himself dubiously in charge of Department Q, responsible for cold cases. With just a lackluster assistant, Assad, Carl starts investigating the 5-year-old disappearance of politician Merete Lynggaard. The reader knows Lynggaard is still alive; can Carl and Assad find her? While darkly humorous, this novel shares elements with other Scandinavian Noir mysteries such as Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, including some violence and a more somber undertone. Continue reading “Defective Detective Departments”