March 30, 2018

Warm up to literary fiction

Literary fiction buffs may be among the most voracious, wily, and unpredictable readers that an RA librarian will face. It's the moment when a fan of Lincoln in the Bardo returns, hoping for "something like that" -- and you just wish that books about angsty dead presidents in the Tibetan underworld grew on trees.

What these readers crave goes beyond particular character types, plot conventions, or even related subject matter. Great literary fiction RA means getting into a story's more expressive qualities.

Sound tricky? It doesn't have to be! Login to NoveList and start with the practical RA insights you'll find in this short guide: Getting Up to Speed in Literary Fiction. (Hint: find it quickly by copypasting UI 445974 into the search bar). Then, try some of my go-to strategies below!

TONE captures a book's "vibe" -- it describes the emotions that the story tries to evoke in readers, or the overall mood it creates. For literary fiction readers in particular, tone may define their reading experience.

Ask your reader: "What are you in the mood for?"

In NoveList, you can then narrow your genre search (GN) using some of the tone appeals (TC) often applied to literary fiction. Paste these searches for some quick results:

  • GN literary fiction AND TC reflective
  • GN literary fiction AND TC haunting
  • GN literary fiction AND TC melancholy
  • GN literary fiction AND TC disturbing

WRITING STYLE describes how a book is written, from the complexity of the language to the level of background details included. Literary fiction fans tend to appreciate how language shapes their experience of a story, or characters.

Ask your reader: "Tell me about the last couple of books you really enjoyed."

Find those titles in NoveList, and note the writing style appeal terms applied to them. Then combine relevant writing style appeals (RC) with a genre search (GN) for options tailored to that literary fiction fan's preferences. Try these sample searches in NoveList:

  • GN literary fiction AND RC lyrical
  • GN literary fiction AND RC lush
  • GN literary fiction AND RC richly detailed
  • GN literary fiction AND RC spare

Using tone and writing style appeal searches like these in NoveList, I found great read-alikes for one of the year's biggest award winners, and created a flyer in LibraryAware for you to print and post where it will call attention to your library's literary fiction collection. 

Want to learn more about appeal factors and using them to provide great readers' advisory? Snag a free download of The Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal.

Kimberly Burton is a Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList.

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