Do you like waiting? ‘Cause I don’t. Not my thing at all. I like having the newest titles as soon as they come out. Because I keep my eye on sources that tell me what books are coming out when, I often get myself onto holds lists early and don’t have to wait long for books I’m particularly excited about. I may do a blog post down the road on ways I manage my holds queues and get to read books quickly, because there’s nothing magic about it, and I only use tools that are available to everyone. But today I’m going to talk about what to do when you get stuck waiting a long time for a hot new title you failed to get onto in time to avoid the wait. And now you are waiting. And we agreed up front we don’t like waiting. The book I’m going to use as an example is the current book with the highest holds ratio in the system. (A holds ratio is the number of people waiting for a hold divided by the number of titles currently owned.) That book is the fourth installment in the Thursday Murder Club series, The Last Devil to Die. As of this writing, the catalog shows that we own six copies of the book with 67 people waiting. That’s a holds ratio of 11:1.
But first: the question that most often gets asked is, “Why don’t you just buy more copies when the list is that long?” The answer is that of course we order more copies of high demand titles, but it is also a juggling act. Some books are super popular for a very short period of time and then will never be read again a year later. (The classic example of this type of book would be current events-driven titles that focus on politics.) Some books are sleepers that build up audiences slowly through word of mouth. Some books are predictable in their popularity and will likely have readers for years to come, but not at the volume of the folks who want to read the title RIGHT NOW. There are even some books that we can predict will be more popular as ebooks and won’t really move as hard copies. We have staff in our Collection Development Department who know A LOT about these usage patterns (and also budgets), and make decisions that are in the best interest of the organization using all the data available to them. They do math so I don’t have to. I am grateful that they exist! The holds ratio is very much one of the numbers they use. While buying more copies is certainly something that the library might do, let’s start with the knowledge that if you were to place a hold for The Last Devil to Die today, you still won’t be getting a copy any time soon. So: I’m going to tell you why you want to place that hold AND THEN tell you what you can read while you wait. That’s what librarians do!
You may have noticed that we don’t talk a ton about the titles that have long holds lists in this forum. That’s intentional. This blog arose out of the pandemic, and it was an attempt to connect our librarians with the public when they had limited ways to connect with patrons. It was also a way to get immediate book recommendations out into the world when people were stuck at home. We didn’t want to get the word out about books you already knew about or would have to wait for; we wanted to get you information about books you could get today. So, admittedly, this is a bit of a departure.
That said, if you haven’t heard about the Thursday Murder Club series yet and why it’s so popular, here’s why: It’s about a group of adults living in a retirement community. They have a club that meets every Thursday in the community room to discuss cold cases and try to solve them. Then a murder happens within their community, and they switch over and use their finely honed cold-case solving skills and their wealth of lived experience to solve murders. The characters are rich and engaging. The mystery plots are interesting. The side stories about the characters’ lives are endearing. Basically these titles have a lot to offer and fall into the “cozy mystery” genre, while being unique enough that they are published in hardcover instead of as mass market paperbacks. The author, Richard Osman, was a TV presenter in the UK until recently (he retired to write full time). He had name recognition overseas, but the success in the US is not tied to authorial fame, just to the fact that he found a really interesting market niche in the book market at exactly the right time. If you haven’t read a book in this series yet, start with The Thursday Murder Club! AND that’s your first tip on what to do while you wait: READ THE EARLIER INSTALLMENTS OF THE SERIES!
So here, for your edification, is Kristin’s list of things she does to find readalikes (this word is a portmanteau meaning exactly what it sounds like it means) for fiction titles:
- Read earlier installments of books in the series. But, here’s the thing: the fact that you want to read the book means you’ve probably tried this already.
- Read other books by the same author. In this case, that’s a no go. This is his first and only fiction series.
- If I’m physically in the library, I look at covers of books on the new books shelf. With this series, I look for white or cream covers with black and red type and small spot illustrations. This is one way to find readalikes like The Marlow Murder Club and Killers of a Certain Age. In many cases you can, in fact, judge a book by its cover! Seriously, click through and you will see what I mean!
- When I’m inside the library, I also would try asking staff. We spend a lot of time with books, and we can often point you to good alternatives.
- In the catalog, I scroll to the bottom of the page. To practice, click here. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you will see a bunch of book covers under the header “More Like This.” Scroll further and you will also see: “Similar Series From NovelList,” “Similar Titles From NovelList,” and “Similar Authors From NovelList.” Click the arrows to expand those sections, and you will see suggestions, along with a brief explanation of why the title is being suggested.
- You can go to the Book Advice section of the library webpage for other ideas and resources. My favorites for identifying readalikes are NoveList (you’ll need a library card for this one, but the best bits for readalikes are actually accessible straight from the catalog, see above) and Literature Map.
Finally, here’s a list of books I made using the tools I listed here. So, if you want something LIKE The Last Devil to Die while you wait, look no further.