Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Fiction

If you're like me, finding a great novel to pass the time with is like discovering a treasure. Unfortunately, the map for fiction sometimes seems a lot less easy to read than the map for nonfiction. With nonfiction, you can say, "Where are your books about vampires?", get a number (398.45, in this case), and see what's on the shelf.

With fiction? Well, it's not shelved that way. It's shelved by author--and if you don't know the next book you'd like to read, then how are you supposed to guess which author to look under? It can seem a bit daunting!

Luckily, the catalog can help you. If you do a subject search for "Vampires Fiction," you'll find 918 hits!

That's great--if what you want is a vampire book, then you've got it.

Unfortunately, you're looking for Stephen King type vampires, and you know a good half of the books on the list are Stephenie Meyer vampires. How do you know which one is which? It takes a lot of time to go through all 918.

Luckily, the library has other tools. You might check out our booklists, to see if someone has made a list of the kind of books you want to read. You could also go to a librarian--part of the job at the reference desk is called reader's advisory, and the whole point of that is helping you find the books you want to read.

But even if you're not at the library, you can use many of the same tools at home. Just making use of the catalog, if you enter a book of the sort you want--for instance, Dracula--you can click on the tab labeld "Find Similar Items," which will list all the subjects the book is listed under. It will list "Vampires Fiction," which we've already tried, but maybe what really interests you is "Transylvania (Romania) Fiction" or just "Horror Tales." These subjects are clickable, and will bring you to full lists.

Still, it's pretty broad stroke. You want to limit it a little more. This is where there are several helpful tricks on LibGuides, under Books and Literature. Here, you'll find bestseller lists, series lists, a newsletter called NextReads which you can subscribe to for recommendations, and a database called NoveList Plus, which you have access to with your library card. NoveList allows you to narrow down what sorts of books you want to read, look for author read-alikes, and even choose what sort of tone you want (light, humorous, dramatic, etc).

For instance, if you loved 'Salem's Lot, and want to find books that read like it, you would enter in 'Salem's Lot as a title. When you reached the page, along with a descripion of that book and several reviews, you would find a menu at the side that looks like this:

You can see there that you can choose "Vampires" as a subject, "Horror stories" as a genre, and "menacing" as a tone--that ought to help keep it to the sort of books you want. Sure enough, it gives you a list of books including The Passage, Dracula, and I Am Legend.

You can go back and choose other combinations as well to get different recommendations. The question now is, does the library have them? NoveList Plus has a link for each book to "Check Library Catalog." Because we are subscribed as the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Library System, this will link directly to a title search at ABC Libraries, and let you know if it's there. If it is, you can place a hold on it right then. If not, you can almost always obtain a book through Interlibrary Loan.

And that's how to find fiction.


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