Monday - Thursday: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturdays: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sundays: 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Closed Saturdays July 1 through Labor Day
Closed Sundays from Memorial Day - Columbus Day Weekend

More than little green men and faeries

I am a very eclectic reader. There is hardly a genre that won’t grace my to-read pile. For that reason, I really enjoy the Reader’s Bingo competition that the library holds periodically (OK, so everyone else thinks that it is a game, but I can make anything into a blood sport).

Reader’s Bingo requires participants to fill in a bingo sheet with books titles they have read during the game period that fit the description of one of the squares. For example, if the square reads, “A coming of age story,” I might fill in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho or “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles. My coworker, Liz, plans the squares so that they will challenge readers to explore genres that take them out of their comfort zones. My secret is that I have no literary comfort zone. I like it all. This makes filling bingo sheets a breeze.

Because of my preferences, when I first started doing readers’ advisory, I was surprised to find that people have visceral reactions to certain genres. When I ask patrons what they like to read, if I so much as mention science fiction or fantasy, most patrons look at me like I have suggested reading the phonebook while walking on hot coals.

I don’t want patrons to miss out on some of the best fiction on our shelves simply because they think that sci-fi is just little green men and that fantasy always has faeries flitting around a forest. There is so much more to these genres. Sci-fi and fantasy aficionados, skip to the end- I am about to suggest books you have already read.

If you are willing to dip your toe into the sci-fi pool, there is no better place to start than with Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” It is the quintessential beginner’s science fiction. It is classic sci-fi in that it takes place in another world and there are advanced technologies that are central to the plot, but it is also a very human story about a boy navigating his way into adulthood amidst extreme hardship, resource scarcity, and more than a few people intending to do him harm. Already read “Dune”? Try “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown.

If worlds unlike our own are not your thing, Margaret Atwood might be a good author to try. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood is a wonderful alternative to space and technology themed science fiction. This book describes a highly patriarchal society where women are no longer allowed to read or access education and are only valued for their ability to produce children. The story follows one woman as she navigates this new world and how she resists. Considered required reading in high school and college courses around the world, this book is a true page turner.

As for fantasy, I just have to recommend “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley. This book is fantasy-lite and perfect for people who claim to hate fantasy. This novel is set in modern-day London and is about a young woman who unwittingly finds herself in the body of an operative for a secret government department in charge of all things magical, supernatural, or just plain odd. While there is suspense and action, the writing style is light and funny.

I would certainly not do the genre justice if I did not mention Neil Gaiman. He has a fantasy book for nearly every age and taste. If you think you would enjoy a classic fantasy with lighter themes, then “Stardust” is a good pick. If you are prepared for a darker and stranger selection, “American Gods” is a must-read. I have never finished a Gaiman book without wishing there were more pages to read.

If you want to have any shot at winning Reader’s Bingo this summer, you’ll eventually have to pick up a science fiction or fantasy book. Why not read something you’ll actually enjoy? While you can try one of the titles listed above, our reference librarians are happy to tailor a list to your tastes.

Allison Palmgren is the technology librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Allison’s column in the April 13th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Alli Palmgren

Translate »