5 Reader’s Advisory Books for Librarians

Norton Young Readers.

When Cordelia Hatmaker’s father vanishes on an ingredient expedition, Cordelia refuses to accept that he’s gone. Her grief-stricken aunt and uncle forge ahead to fulfill an order from the king for a magical Peace Hat. But then the Peace Hat is stolen—along with the Peace Boots, Cloak, Watch, and Gloves crafted by the other Maker families. Cordelia realizes that there is a menacing plot against the Makers, and that Prospero Hatmaker’s disappearance may be connected. Cordelia must uncover who is behind the thefts if she is to save the Makers and find out what really happened to her father.

The art and science of recommending books is known as “reader’s advisory” to librarians. But long before I knew it had a name, I loved giving book recommendations. When I found out I could study reader’s advisory formally, it wasn’t too long before I submitted my application to library science grad school. At last, to my joy, I got my chance to take a course in reader’s advisory. However, I found the books recommended in my textbooks to be somewhat dated and definitely not as diverse as I had hoped. Fortunately, there are a ton of great non-academic books with lists of books you can learn from on your path to becoming an ace reader’s advisor and helping out your patrons with all-star book recommendations. In this article, I feature five outstanding reader’s advisory books that open new doors for fresh, on-point recommendations.

1,001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Ephron, PhD

Sometimes, in the course of a reader’s advisory conversation, you realize a patron isn’t looking to read a specific topic, they just want to read something they are “in the mood for.” That’s a great time to pick up Hallie Ephron’s 1,001 Books for Every Mood. This thoughtful compilation of book recommendations is organized by emotions. A patron who might be in the mood for “a Good Laugh” or, alternately, “a Good Cry.” There are even more niche feelings listed, too, like “to Blame Your Genes, “to Hit a Home Run,” and “for a Walk on the Wild Side.” Ephron’s groundbreaking book belongs on every librarian’s shelf.

Book Lust by Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl might be the world’s most recognizable librarian — maybe you’ve seen her action figurine — and she was certainly one of the inspirational figures that made me pursue library science. In Book Lust, Pearl lists her favorite books across 175 distinct categories organized A–Z. Pearl explores topics like Aging, Cold War Spy Fiction, Mothers and Daughters, and Science Books (for the Interested but Apprehensive Layperson). Though the book was published in 2003, Pearl’s recommendations still hold up. It’s reader’s advisory books like this that introduce overlooked or forgotten great reads.

Ex-Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani

Who better to give book recommendations than Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani? In balanced personal and critical essays, Kakutani steers you in the right direction towards the absolute best of the best. Kakutani organizes some essays in themed sections and others she leaves loose, making this book an appealing browse. Kakutani’s eclectic recommendations are offered in bite-sized essays that are ideal for librarians who need to do reader’s advisory quickly.

The Story Cure: An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

Librarians don’t just give reader’s advisory to adults; they often have to do a little reader’s advisory for children’s books, too. In The Story Cure, two bibliotherapists collaborate to introduce readers to new and classic children’s literature, from picture books all the way up to YA books. Whether you’re looking for an old standby or are up for something a little more modern and experimental, The Story Cure is an ideal read.

Well-Read Black Girl Edited by Glory Edim

It is essential for librarians and reader’s advisors to be delivering diverse recommendations. Enter Well-Read Black Girl, edited by Glory Edim. This book grew out of the book club for Black women by the same name. Edim’s book includes thoughtful reflections by Black female authors on the formative books, poetry, and plays they have read. A celebration of Black writing, Well-Read Black Girl is also a must-read for any librarian doing reader’s advisory today.