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NextReads Newsletter Profile: Biography and Memoir

Post by Katherine Bradley Johnson
Posted August 13, 2014 in NextReads

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Biographies and memoirs are the most popular nonfiction in public libraries. What do people enjoy most about reading them? The private lives of celebrities, royals, or sports stars? Memoirs of illness, difficult childhoods, or loss and grief? Insights into the motivations of historical figures? Biographical works cover such a wide range of subjects, it may be hard for your patrons to browse for the kinds of life stories they like best. The NextReads Biography and Memoir newsletter provides an easy way for fans to identify popular new works they can find at their libraries. Our brief but informative annotations tell readers a little about the subjects and key characteristics of the works, including whether they are memoirs by popular or well known figures, biographies of historically significant people, or life stories that open windows onto unusual experiences. Each newsletter, delivered monthly, features four or five recently published books that will appeal to a range of biography fans.

In addition to new books on a variety of subjects, each newsletter also offers a themed section of four or five older books that are likely to be on the shelves waiting for the next avid reader. Themes bring together biographies or memoirs on related subjects. Recent examples include "Hollywood", "Fathers and Mothers" (for the May newsletter), and "Women in Medicine" (in response to the popularity of the PBS series Call the Midwife). 

Both popularity as reflected in sales and library holdings and quality as reflected in reviews influence the selection of titles. To be included in a NextReads newsletter, biographies should offer an accessible approach to the subject that is intriguing or unusually well-researched, especially if there are already numerous biographies about this person. We include memoirs that will be especially appealing to general readers because they tell captivating stories, offer insightful, thought-provoking, or inspirational accounts, or portray specialized careers (such as brain surgeon) in accessible, appealing language.

Biography and memoir is such a popular area, there are hundreds of books to choose from each month. It's often hard to select just a few new books, so occasionally a newsletter will have 8 to 10 new ones without a theme. Sometimes, too, a theme will contain more recent books in "Books You Might Have Missed" or "Books with Buzz." Either way, fans of life stories will have much to choose from. The annotations often provide additional reading suggestions, so that (for example) fans of Ludwig van Beethoven can read about a new biography of the great composer and also learn of another, slightly different, recent work on him.

Fans of biographies can sign up to received the Biography and Memoir newsletter via email; or, you can use one of LibraryAware's other options for sharing and printing NextReads recommendations. Readers will look forward to learning about intriguing, thought-provoking, entertaining, and informative books about interesting people every month!

The Biography and Memoir newsletter is one of 20+ NextReads Newsletters available from local libraries who subscribe to LibraryAware.


Katherine Bradley Johnson is a NextReads Bibliographer at NoveList.