My last blog entry outlined Reader’s Advisory, which is a fancy term for making book recommendations, librarian-style. The crux of it is being an open-minded listener, asking questions to find out what type of book the reader is looking for right now, and getting our own preferences out of the way so we can make the experience about the reader. It is an important skill for library folks to develop and is core to library service. What’s more, Reader’s Advisory can be a lot of fun for everyone involved, since few things make library staff happier than a patron who is excited to read the book they’ve checked out.  

With this blog post, I want to return to something I touched on in the previous one: the goal of finding the Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time. This is important when working with kids who are learning to read, but I also apply it when working with adults who are looking for a book to check out. 

To me, successful Reader’s Advisory hinges on what sort of book the reader wants to read right now. Some readers are devoted to a particular genre and are looking for the next great Cozy Mystery (for example). Others tend to get on a kick where they find an author or series they love, read everything they can find in that vein, and feel a little bit lost once they exhaust it. Others are more eclectic, just looking for something that sounds engaging, which of course will vary widely from person to person. Many of us exhibit traits of all these different types of readers at different points in our lives or even depending on our moods. Lyn blogged recently about comfort reading. Sometimes we want to know what we’re getting into when we start a new book. Other times we want to have an entirely new experience.  

In a Reader’s Advisory scenario, the idea is to find some suggestions that fit the preferences and mood of the patron at that particular moment. I’m emphasizing this, in part, because I also believe strongly in the inverse of finding the Right Book for the Right Reader at the Right Time. Sometimes, a book is just the wrong book, and no amount of feeling like you should read it will make it the right book, right then. Not every book is right for every person, and some books are better at different times in a person’s life. For example, I read Jane Eyre as a young woman, with a new degree, setting out on my own, and trying to find my way. I definitely didn’t consider Jane to be a role model, but something about her journey of personal development struck a chord for me at that point in my life. I loved that book when I read it, but I have a feeling that I would have less patience for Jane and Mr. Rochester if I read it now. On the flip side, I know there are books that failed to hold my interest when I was younger that are absolutely worth revisiting. I remember my mom laughing and laughing while reading Barbara Kingsolver when I was a teenager. Intrigued, I picked up one of her books and could not get into it. Now that I’m getting closer to the age my mom was then, I have high hopes that I may be ready to really appreciate Barbara Kingsolver. 

Here’s another example of how reading the “right book” can feel. I facilitated our Books at Noon group recently, where each participant tells the group about a book they’ve read recently, and one person’s comments keep coming back to me while I think about this concept of the Right Book. He had read a book in which he identified with the protagonist deeply, so much so that while he loved the book, he didn’t feel like he was qualified to say whether it was an objectively good book or not. To me, that means that it was his right book, at that time. Whether or not it was “good” according to anyone else’s metric seems irrelevant to me. It was a good book for that reader at that moment, and that is what matters. 

So here we go. I’m going to say it, as a professional, Masters’ Degreed Librarian: It doesn’t matter whether a book is “good” or not, so long as you like it. People read for many different reasons, revelation, escape, comfort, and more. Someone else’s right book might not be yours, even if it is a bestseller and has won all sorts of awards. Reading is personal. If a book is your Right Book for the Right Person at the Right Time, then that makes it good. And lucky you for finding it!