My Love Affair with Reference Books

I Heart Reference Books.

GenreflectingI have been working in public libraries for years, and I love helping connect readers with their next great book. Unfortunately, I have a condition that makes readers’ advisory a real challenge: book amnesia. Whenever someone asks for helping finding something good to read, the first thing that happens to me is that my mind goes completely blank. It doesn’t matter that I may just have read three great romances this month that I know the reader might enjoy, I can’t for the life of me remember anything about them—not even the colors of their covers!

Fortunately, there has been one saving grace in my readers’ advisory career: reference books. Once I pick up a reference book and start seeing some authors and titles, something clicks in my brain and I can remember the books I want to suggest to a reader. Over the course of my readers’ advisory career, there have been many reference books I have come to love and cherish, from Betty Rosenberg’s ground-breaking first edition of Genreflecting (1991) and Kristin Ramsdell’s Happily Ever After: A Guide to Reading Interests in Romance Fiction (1987), to Kathryn Falk’s Romance Reader’s Handbook (1989) and Joyce Saricks’ The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (2009).

Read On . . . RomanceThis year I have discovered another reference book I am adding to my readers’ advisory toolkit: Read On . . . Romance: Reading Lists for Every Taste (2014) by C. L. Quillen and Ilene N. Lefkowitz. Quillen’s and Lefkowitz’s book is part of the “Read On” series, which arranges books in sections based on five appeal characteristics: story, character, setting, language, and mood. The book includes entries for more than 350 popular and current authors writing in the romance genre, and each section is further divided into lists of six to ten titles chosen to fit a particular romantic theme such as “Somebody Else’s Wedding” and “Smart, Funny Women.” What I especially appreciate is that the plot summaries for each book provide just enough information about the book so I can suggest titles to a reader even if I haven’t read that particular book myself. Read On . . . Romance also serves as a great resource for compiling romance-book lists and for providing ideas for displays.

With terrific readers advisory reference resources like this, I no longer dread chatting with readers because I know that even when I experience one of those senior moments, my memory is always within easy reach (at least as long as I remember where I put the reference book!).



About the Author:

The Romance Writers of America 2002 Librarian of the Year, Charles has been reviewing romances for Booklist since 1999 and is the author of Romance Today: An A to Z Guide to Contemporary American Romance. After working for the Scottsdale Public Library System for 30 years, Charles retired and went to work for Scottsdale's independent bookstore the Poisoned Pen, where he still gets to push books but has to deal with far fewer computer questions.

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