Biblio Adventures at ALA

A friendly reminder: it's still about the books, too New media. Downloadables. Hot databases. Yes, ALA is about tracking techie trends. But LJ's book review editors don't stalk the floor just to stay e-informed. We're looking for good authors, good books, and good talks about review coverage. And we found them spades. Good authors? How about three thought-provoking panels hosted by Friends of the Library U.S.A. (FOLUSA) - which, as usual, were packed. "Best Sellers of a Different Color: Ethnic Writers in America" started late as extra chairs were dragged in for the estimated 100-plus attendees. Barely a seat was empty when panelists anchored by Thomas M. Kostigen discussed "Protecting the Earth." And at the ever-popular "First Author, First Book" panel, featuring buzz-inducing upstarts like Janelle Brown, Anya Ulinich, and Mark Sarvas, latecomers found themselves shut out. The audience Q&A was particularly vigorous at the Ethnic Writers panel, which offered a rainbow range of authors: Latina Yxta Maya Murray, Vietnamese American Bich Minh Nguyen, part Japanese Nina Revoyr, and Street Lit luminaries Tracy Brown, Nikki Turner, and Wahida Clark. However they were billed, their responses showed how they are invigorating literature as a whole.

Book trip

Murray called books in her series starring risk-taking bookseller Lola Sanchez biblio adventures, a term that could be used more broadly for a number of the presentations. John Francis, author of Planet Walker: 17 Years of Silence, 22 Years of Walking (pictured above), explained his decision to eschew motor vehicles after the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill. And Daniel White, who limned his conquest of the punishing Pacific Crest Trail in The Cactus Eaters, was en route from the airport when the First Author panel started and literally ran in to give his talk. Got a book? Get a group. But even the longest-running book groups can suffer from strong personalities and gossip overload. Enter "Book Group Therapy: How To Repair, Revamp, and Revitalize Your Book Group." Hosted by the genial Megan McArdle (Chicago P.L.), substituting for Nancy Pearl, the session summarized a RUSA Codes Readers Advisory survey. Some key findings: The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, and The Secret Life of Bees counted among the favorite reads of the 1200 respondents, 94 percent of whom were (no surprise) women. For greater book group diversity, David Wright (Seattle P.L.) smartly advised choosing male-friendly authors, taking a chance on nonfiction (or pairing it with a related novel), and even joining an online book group. Groups might also consider taking advantage of Chili Fresh, a four-month-old cross-platform software that integrates with library online catalogs to allow patrons to write book reviews. The Salt Lake City and King County Library systems already use it. Coming soon: widgets that will showcase the best-reviewed books in the system. Alas for book review editors, print book reviews are sometimes rumored to be just a few steps behind the dodo. But there was good news at "Reviews Outside the Mainstream," where presenters Kevin King (Kalamazoo P.L.), Jane Jorgenson (Madison P.L.), and Robert Holley (Wayne State Univ.) did not flatly declare that print reviews are dead. In fact, LJ reviewer Jorgenson joked that librarians need only "cheat" a little on their longtime print loves to embrace online sources like Bookslut. Hey, we'll take on Bookslut any time. Get us the books, we'll get you the reviews.
Barbara Hoffert is Editor and Heather McCormack is Managing Editor/Xpress Reviews, LJ Book Review
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