The Reading Life: Reader’s Advisory Tools

A reader’s advisory tool is something you can use to find a book to read. Some people use; some use the New York Times bestseller list; some, mostly librarians, use books of books, databases, and web tools. Are you totally stuck deciding what to read? It happens to the best of us.

1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, edited by Leah Eccleshare

Oh, what a great resource! This book is a great one to have on hand if you have kids or really like kids’ books. The book is divided into five sections: 0-3 years of age, 3+, 5+, 8+, and 12+. I like this approach to age range because it’s more flexible than “5-8,” or “10-12.” Each title’s entry contains information such as author, author’s nationality, any awards won, themes, and then a two- to three-paragraph summary. No plots are given away, but if there are objectionable themes (like in the book I’ll Love You Forever), the reviewer makes a note. In addition, this book is valuable because it is from a European press; therefore, many of the books reviewed are translations from Swedish, Finnish, Afrikaans, French, etc. American parents, take heed! This is a fantastic place to find international/multicultural/non-North American children’s books.

Nancy Pearl is a genius!

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl

Have you seen those librarian action figures? They are based on Nancy Pearl, Seattle librarian and amazing lady extraordinaire. Book Lust is a reader’s advisory tool that is accessible, fun, and pocket-sized. There are book lists for every whim; some examples include “Elvis on My Mind,” “Sex and the Single Reader,” “Balkan Specters,” and “California, Here We Come.” Every few months, I go through my copy with a pencil and mark off what I’ve read. I have a long way to go. Other titles in this series of books include More Book Lust and Book Crush (for teens).

Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literature maintained by Lisa R. Bartle

How did I not know about this database before? Okay, don’t pay attention to the design; that’s not the important part. The important part is the actual information you can get from this tool. I’m currently working on an annotated bibliography about the Jewish-American experience in children’s literature. All I have to do to find award-winning, quality titles in this database is select “Jewish” from the “Ethnicity/Nationality” dropdown menu. The downside of this database is that it was last updated a year ago. However, it goes back to 1921, which is amazing. Play with this tool! I can see teachers, librarians, and parents finding this useful.

OCLC FictionFinder maintained by the Online Computer Library Center

This tool is still in beta, meaning it’s a test version. If this is a test, I can’t even imagine how amazing the final version is going to be. This is the kind of tool you need to just play with to really appreciate, but here are some suggestions. When you click through to the main page, you’ll see a tag cloud. Above that, there are two links, “Browse” and “Search.” Try “Browse.” You can browse by fictional character, fictional setting, genre, awards, and subject. If you can’t remember what book Rod Gallowglass was in, click on his name. A list of books pops up. If you click on one of those, you can type in your ZIP code and find it at a library near you. Neat!


The Book Seer maintained by Apt Labs

Not only is this neat, but it combines my love of ridiculous mustaches and books. Type in a book title and author name, and up pops a list of things you might like. This is a great tool to use when you are on a genre or author kick. I often read (and re-read) David Sedaris-type books in big bunches, and I need new titles. The Book Seer is awesome, and it also gives you links to your local library or bookshop (for you UK folk).


About Amanda K

Amanda K holds a master's degree in Library and Information Studies. She's a housewife, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, a sewist, and an aspiring gourmet home cook. View all posts by Amanda K

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