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Five Tips for Getting Up-to-Speed on a Genre

Post by Lori Reed
Posted September 09, 2013 in NoveList Plus, NoveList Select, Readers' Advisory News

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Fourteen years ago, I worked the reference desk for the first time. I was terrified.

What if someone asked me a question about something I didn’t know? What if someone asked me to recommend a book? What if someone asked me to recommend a childrenbook? What if someone asked me to recommend a (shudder) romance? I’m an avid reader, but I mostly read nonfiction, scifi, fantasy, and horror. Want to know about surviving the apocalypse? I’m your girl! Want a western, regency romance, or cozy mystery? I'm lost.

Does this sound familiar? If so, here are five tips on how to use NoveList to learn about an unfamiliar genre. Let’s use mysteries as an example.

  1. Your first stop: Genre Outlines. Genre Outlines tell you everything you need to know to work with a fan of the genre. Each practical outline defines the genre, describes why readers like it, lists key titles and authors in the genre, and offers tips and suggestions for talking to readers. Available for adults, teens, and older kids (ages 9-14). 
  2. Check out Recommended Reads Lists for each genre and sub-genre you want to learn about. Recommended Reads lists are ready-made book recommendations that cover a wide range of genres and topics at all reading levels. Mystery lovers will find more than a dozen lists to look at. I learned that a “cozy” mystery is one not containing explicit sex or violence.

  3. Check out NoveList's Feature Articles related to mysteries. To find mystery articles, start at the Advanced Search Screen and enter mystery as your search term and GN Genre in the field code drop down box next to your search term. Then in the bottom right corner of the screen select Feature Articles as the Document Type. NoveList has more than twenty articles on mysteries, from Sherlock Holmes to funny female sleuths.
  4. Now that you’ve learned a bit about the genre it’s time to go deeper. Face it; it’s time to read a book. But you don’t have to suffer through it like a college textbook. The great thing about fiction is that there are lots of cross-over genres. Since I’m already a fan of horror, I looked for mysteries that involve elements of horror. Back at the advance search screen, try a search on “mystery” with a field code of GN Genre, select AND on the second line , then enter a keyword of horror and a field code of GN genre.

    Once you have your results, use the appeal terms on the left side of the screen to narrow your search even more ("fast-paced" and "compelling"). Using the field codes in NoveList coupled with appeal limiters helps you find the book that’s just right for you (and your patrons)!
  5. Evaluate yourself using the ARRT Popular Fiction List available from NoveList or for purchase from the ARRT website: This workbook is designed to help library staff assess their adult fiction reading experience. For each category of fiction, you’ll check off whether you’ve read the author, read about the author, heard of the author, or never hear of the author. Gaps in your knowledge will soon be apparent for each genre.

Do you have tips to share about learning a genre? Post them to our Facebook page!

Lori Reed is the Customer Relationship Coordinator for NoveList. An avid Doctor Who fan, when not working or chasing her two kids around, Lori enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi as well as nonfiction.