November 13, 2018

How to read a book in 5 minutes (AKA how to figure out if this book will appeal to your reader)

If you’re like me, the thought of doing readers’ advisory for someone whose reading tastes are very different from yours can be nerve-wracking. How do you even start? Hint: you can use NoveList to be confident about the important details of the book by talking about our story elements. With our genre, theme, and appeal terms, you can “read” that book in record time.

What are story elements?

Genres are often used by both readers and librarians as a shortcut to pick books and describe a particular reading experience. Science fiction and mysteries each bring to mind a different reader expectation, even though there is a lot of variety within each genre.

Appeal is the “feel” of a book, and a way of determining why people enjoy the books they read. Does a patron like books that are dark? Heartwarming? Laugh-out-loud funny? NoveList appeal terms can help you to get at this aspect.

Themes, the newest addition to NoveList, use language that a reading community uses. They are popular, recurring plot elements that are found among fiction books that describe the overall plot.

How can you use them to “read” a book?

Let’s say that a patron has heard about The Death of Mrs. Westaway and wants to know if it’s worth the wait to read it. (At my library, there are still multiple holds on it!) If you’ve not read the book, NoveList’s story elements can help you talk about the book and why it might be worth waiting for. Type in The Death of Mrs. Westaway into the NoveList search box and you will find all the metadata associated with the book including genre, storyline, writing style, and tone in the book’s record. It is the one-stop shop in finding the story elements you need to start breaking down the book.

Mrs. Westaway is gothic fiction and psychological suspense. The combination brings to mind heroines in creepy, lonely places facing dangerous situations with lots of twists and turns. Its theme is Too good to be true. A quick scan of the reviews in NoveList will tell you that the book is about a young woman who learns that she might be an heiress to a fortune -- but she’s never met any of her supposed relatives.

The character appeals, flawed and sympathetic, tell you that the characters are imperfect, but you may find yourself rooting for them anyway. The storyline term nonlinear lets you know that the narrative jumps around in time, while the writing style terms compelling and descriptive also indicate that the author does a good job of describing the characters’ surroundings and grabs your interest from the first page without letting go. And finally, the tone terms atmospheric, menacing, and suspenseful tells you that the reader will be eagerly reading to find out whether the main character finds herself in danger, and if so how she escapes it.

And … congratulations! You’ve just read The Death of Mrs. Westaway or at least, you now know enough about it to discuss it with patrons wanting to know more about it or look for similar books.

Now you try

Reading a book in five minutes is great (and fun) practice for working a service point, talking with readers in the stacks, and answering form-based readers’ advisory. At your next team meeting, ask everyone to name a book title. Someone who’s not read that book can look up the book in NoveList report back on what the book is about as if they were talking to a patron. It’s a quick way to practice talking with ease about books and genres you’ve not read.

NoveList Select for Catalog customers can practice reading a book in five minutes while look at the catalog with a patron. You’ll find the same information about our appeal terms, genres, and themes in the story elements section of NoveList Select.

We try to make the terms self-explanatory, but if you need definitions for our appeals, themes, and genres, you can go to our help pages: Appeals, Genres, Themes. You can also find the definitions in the help pages within the NoveList database.

Want to practice reading a book in five minutes, but don’t have NoveList? Ask for a demo today.


 Amie Reno is a Metadata and Database Design Librarian for NoveList. 





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