In the run-up to Book Expo America next week, I'm doing my exhibitor homework: assessing which autographed publications and advance reader copies would most interest Round Rock readers.
Paula Daly, I note, has Keep Your Friends Close due out in September. Her suspenseful fiction debut, Just What Kind of Mother are You? has checked out briskly since we acquired it last fall.
That ARC created an awkward scenario, now comical in retrospect. The co-worker whom I elected Reader #2--after me-- was away at an outreach appearance. Rather than wait until our schedules coincided to hand off the copy in person, I propped it on the door frame, visible to anyone passing by.
Now imagine that you arrive at your workstation to spot an offering prominently emblazoned Just What Kind of Mother...?
Fortunately, this colleague (a) has a generous sense of humor and (b) is patently not a candidate for any degree of parenting criticism.
Not only do Daly's titles demand our attention, they also mimic popular nonfiction themes. We tend to deflect acquaintances' uninvited advice, but hints and tips packaged in snazzy covers by people unknown to us are practically irresistible.
Michael Korda's Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900-1999 (recommended by the RRNN/Barnes & Noble book group) documents both fiction and nonfiction, but Americans' affinity for life-improvement strategies is clear. And purchasing trends in nonfiction mirror evolving society:
Choices scholarly by comparison to today: lots of memoir, history, poetry, biography. Yet Better Meals for Less Money and How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day reflect modern sensibilities.
Notables include The Art of Thinking; Etiquette by Emily Post; Economic Consequences of the Peace by John M. Keynes.
More of what we now term "self-help" emerging: Live Alone and Like It and Orchids on Your Budget by Marjorie Hillis; You Must Relax by Edmund Jacobson; How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Post-war, it's no surprise that How to Stop Worrying and Start Living resonated in 1948; in 1949, two of ten bestsellers were about canasta.
The desire for high-quality everyday living inspires several from Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens; Look Younger, Live Longer by Gayelord Hauer; How to Live 365 Days a Year by John A. Schindler.
1960s and 1970s:
Cookbooks now focus specifically: dessert, salad, casseroles, bread, chicken. And then: Sex and the Single Girl, The Joy of Sex, The Hite Report, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask. Erma Bombeck (The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank) scores multiple chart toppers.
1980s and 1990s:
These speak for themselves: Richard Simmons; Beverly Hills Diet; Bill Cosby; Robert Fulghum; "Your Inner Child"; Rush Limbaugh, "Juicing", Men Are From Mars, Who Moved My Cheese.
Finally, a few recent titles I've spotted that might, if left at your door, prompt examination of your co-workers' motives:
If I Were You
Now Look What You've Done
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices
Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You, and
Wear No Evil.
On those first Tuesdays when the library opens an hour later for all-staff meeting, we're almost never discussing what you'd think.
Literary chat would be fun, but other priorities rule the agenda. Administering an information/access/community center--the modern library model--demands customer service updates, new resource training, community awareness presentations.
This week's confab was special, marking our official transition into SRP Mode, best described as a state of high alert with moments of mild panic.
Michelle, our director, likens library summer reading programs to the retail world's Christmas--a potentially game-changing season fraught with conventional expectations and opportunities to innovate. New customers are attracted by SRPs, while current users anticipate another rewarding experience.
Hence, the flurry of questions: Did we order enough reading rewards for children? How will they know when they've qualified for one? Will the online registration work? What prizes will tempt grownups to complete a reading log? Will they like this year's mad scientist theme?
And this issue was tricky: how can everyone enjoy summertime when some define the ideal library visit as calm and thoughtful while others express high spirits in loud tones, sometimes romping around beyond a parent's field of vision?
Did we oversell the "second floor is the quiet floor" concept, and by directing phone calls, conversations, and general noisiness downstairs, foster the impression that first floor is "No Holds Barred" territory?
Our consensus: it's OK--considerate and responsible, in fact--to remind folks about library manners and the need for constant parental supervision in a highly public venue.
I work on the grownup floor and consequently admire the energy (and diplomacy!) required to manage the pleasant chaos resulting from large crowds drawn by summer performers. Still, as part of the team coordinating the adults' SRP, I envy the demographic perks of Youth Services' customer base.
Just think: children aren't encumbered by work responsibilities; grownups devote 40 potential reading and library-visiting hours to their jobs. Parents, mindful of the advantages of early literacy and summertime reinforcement, don't merely encourage library visits--they deliver and accompany their offspring!
The Adult Services audience, meanwhile, gets sidetracked by pesky non-library activities like the aforementioned employment, volunteer responsibilities, home and lawn maintenance, child care, meal preparation, bringing their young to children's programs...
Given our multitasking, responsible demographic, we appreciate each and every completed adult reading log and program attendee.
Not that grownups lack youthful tendencies. We observe "kid in the candy store" moments when overwhelmed adults ask for reading suggestions--"just a few, please!". Like the youngster who much prefers the sturdy packing carton to the shiny gift, a mature reader may bypass the new hardcovers and digital resources that we're most excited about, instead choosing a years-old paperback novel.
And grownups can put one in one's place almost as deftly as kids do. When a retired patron recently reported her 10-15 books per week average, I calculated my meager 1.5 for the past week (which included a book review deadline, work, houseguest). Answering my regretful "I didn't get through many this week", the customer huffed, "Well, I happen to think that reading is important!"