The most logical subjects for this assignment seemed to me to be some former co-workers from Ball State University's Bracken Library. Four of the five are those, and one is from outside the library. I was sort of restricted to Bracken's collection, so that the patrons could easily obtain the books. In some cases certain books were simply not available, so I did not pursue those once I found they were not in Bracken's collection.
First, I spoke with "Elizabeth." First, I asked her to tell me about something that she'd read recently that she liked. She mentioned "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. When asked what she liked about it, she said she liked the character development and the fact that several characters' stories intertwined. She also liked the community/family drama aspect, the historical (1960s) setting, and that it was not overtly topical or political. She likes things that are more reality based, with interesting women characters, but not too fluffy. She also spoke of Alice Hoffman, saying that she has not read all of her books, and would like to read more.
I searched read alikes for Kathryn Stockett, and initially found a book called "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer through Amazon.com. This is the one I thought she would like the most. She had already read this one, but said that she DID really like it! I did a google search for read alikes for the first book, and found a page created by a librarian in the Rochester Public Library in Minnesota. I found a book here called "Sisters & Lovers" by Connie Brisco. This seemed like it would fit her preference for character driven stories, with several characters intertwined, and a community/family drama. Unfortunately, she read about six chapters and gave up on this one, saying that it seemed to be the same problems and conversations coming up over and over. I also gave her "The Third Angel" by Alice Hoffman. I looked through synopses of books owned by the library by this author, and this one seemed like one she would like. She had tried this one before, but didn't get too far. She read the whole thing this time, and liked it better. Overall, she said it was a good choice for her, but she didn't love it. So, I was not entirely successful here, but not too bad.
Second, I met with "Shelby." I asked her what she had read recently that she liked, and she also mentioned "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. (So, I was set to find books for two people derived from a similar source... from the same library. Easy, right?) She said she liked that it was from the perspective of a maid, in the South, and that it was historical. I asked if the time period was important; she said no. She said she liked Amish stories, mentioning Beverly Lewis in particular. We then went over to peruse the Bestseller collection, and she gave me a string of authors and genres that she likes. She spoke of Patricia Cornwell, Jodi Pichoult, Lisa Gardner, James Patterson, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, and Julie Garwood. She said she likes suspense, women's lives, romance, detective stories, and the occasional autobiography (usually a movie star).
Some of the tools I know of require a subscription, so I often went to Literature Map first. I searched through several of these names. I found "The Keepsake" by Tess Gerritsen as a read alike for Lisa Gardner through Literature Map. "Shelby" had already read this one, but really liked it. Through the same tool, I found "One for the Money" by Janet Evanovich as a read alike for Patricia Cornwell. I searched this tool, Amazon, and even a general google search for Amish fiction, and was not getting what I thought would be good hits. Finally, I searched Ball State's CardCat with a subject search for "Amish." I found one fiction book and gave this to her with the Evanovich title. She recently sent me an e-mail saying that she was in the middle of another book at the moment, but did look through the two that I gave her. She said that she is sure that she would like them---"especially the Amish based one." I was a little iffy on the Amish book, since it was a little older (1962), but she said that didn't matter to her. So, I guess this was mostly a success, even though she hasn't read them completely yet.
Third, on the list is "Bill." I asked him the standard first question about what he had read lately and liked. He mentioned a book called "The Art of Intrusion" by Kevin Mitnick. Apparently Minick is a famous hacker from the 1980s, who was put in prison for his activities. What did he like about it? He liked the subject matter of hacking and computer security. He initially said he was interested in non-fiction, but I asked if he would be interested in fiction on this subject. He gave me a resounding YES! He went on to mention a couple of books by Neal Stephenson. He is interested in "tech-fiction," which may have mystery/thriller/paranoia aspects.
I found that it was not as easy to find non-fiction through the tools that I was familiar with, so I went to Amazon.com, and did a search for the Kevin Mitnick book. I found one called "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World" by Bruce Schneier. "Bill" said this one looks good, but he hasn't gotten to it yet. By way of the listing for this book in the CardCat, I clicked on the subject heading for "computer hackers," and found "Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier" edited by Katie Hafner and John Markoff. He said this one looked okay, but he was skeptical because he had heard something about John Markoff that he didn't like (he didn't say what it was). William Gibson is a read alike for Neal Stephenson, through Literature Map. I wanted to give him "Neuromancer", since that is the book that sort of gave birth to CyberPunk fiction. Unfortunately it was checked out, so I have him "Virtual Light". He said it looks good, but hasn't gotten to it yet. The reason he hasn't read through the others is that the fourth book I gave him is the one he picked up first, and could not put down! This is a book called "Stealing the Network: How to Own the Box"... it is a book of short stories, by various authors (I couldn't find an editor listed). This was found as a CardCat subject search for "computer hackers" in fiction. He started this one because it is short stories and would be easy to stop and put down when he needed to. He was nearly finished with it when I spoke with him, and he really enjoyed it! He plans to look for the others in the series. I'd call this one a success, even though he didn't have time to read through everything I gave him.
Number four is named "Jake." He had recently read "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. He liked reading about early church history. I asked him if there were any particular aspects about it that he liked. He said he liked reading about the customs and beliefs. He liked the style of the book, which is interviews, although some of it is in a narrative style and he would be fine with reading something that is more in a narrative style. He mentioned a book that he would like to read called "The Case for Faith" by the same author. I asked if he would be interested in reading fiction on this subject... he said maybe, but not really at this time. He would prefer non-fiction, and something that is more pro-Christian or something that presents a good pro/con arguement. He was not interested in anything arguing against Christianity.
Again, I had a difficult time finding something with the tools I know of, so I did a CardCat search for Lee Strobel. I did not find the book "Jake" mentioned in the collection, but I did find "The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that points toward God" by this author. So, I gave him this book. On this entry, I clicked the subject heading for "God--Proof, Cosmological" and found "A Case for the Existence of God" by Dean L. Overman. Hoping to find something similar to the book he requested, I did a subject search for "Faith." I looked through several titles and settled on "Why Faith Matters" by David J. Wolpe.
As it turns out, "Jake" asked for these types of books because he is writing a paper for a class. When I spoke with him again, he said that he has picked through all three books to find something useful, and that all three have been helpful to him. So, I'm happy with the results here.
Last, but certainly not least, is "Sally." She told me that she had recently read "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman. She said she liked the magical elements, the New England setting, and that it was a story dealing with women's lives and the whole family aspect. I also asked if she'd be interested in reading more from the same author, and she said yes. Although at this point, I had already given the most interesting looking Alice Hoffman book to the first person.
I tried Literature Map and Amazon.com, and both (as I suspected) suggested "The Witches of Eastwick" by John Updike. I thought this would be a perfect match, since it seemed to fit everything she told me. However, she stopped about half-way; mostly because of the sexual content. She liked the setting, but not the other aspects. Literature Map suggested Fannie Flagg, so I found "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" in the collection. She sent me an e-mail saying that she is in the middle of it (although probably finished now), and is "thoroughly enjoying it! I love the writing style, love the content, love the interaction between people." I also did a google search... I searched read alikes for "Practical Magic" and eventually found "Like Water for Chocolate" by Laura Esquivel through a page a librarian had put together for the Northwest Regional Library System. Also, a classmate (Ben) had spoken about this one, and I remembered that it sounded interesting. "Sally" said that she LOVED this one... "was intrigued right from the start, and finished it the same day I started." I'd say this was mostly a success, with a suprising miss regarding "The Witches of Eastwick".
This was an interesting exercise. I actually kind of enjoyed looking these books up, and finding things for people. Although, it took longer than I expected and it wasn't as easy as I expected. I knew all of my subjects, and I was surprised by some of them. Once some of the other employees found out what I was doing, they wanted me to find something for them! I only had time for five right now... but I may go back and work with those people... just for kicks! ;)