September: Quizzing Librarians for Book Recommendations

I realize librarians don’t seem particularly intimidating, but this is where the rest of the world is wrong and I’m right.

September’s Reading Challenge prompt insisted I approach a librarian and ask for a book recommendation. I thought it’d be simple and easy, especially since I schlep my children to the library at least once a week.

However, I struggled a bit in the actual execution of the task. I view myself on the introverted side of the extrovert spectrum, but still definitely an extrovert. I just seem to befriend (many), marry (only one), and reproduce (at least one, as we’re pretty sure Olivia is following her mama’s outgoing tendencies) introverts.

With librarians, though, they seem like such a sweet, timid breed. After all, they love books. I feel like they want to help other people love books, but a lot of the emphasis falls on books rather than people. I realize I’m horribly generalizing an entire profession, but one of my best friends is a librarian, so I have permission (or don’t I, Bekah??).


I didn’t want to stress anyone out by asking for a book recommendation, because I knew the task would be faced with a stricken face and a twinge of panic. Because how can anyone choose just one book? And who is the book for? What types of books does the other person enjoy? What if the book suggestion is too out there, and the patron gets spooked? What if the person hates the recommended book? What if this causes the person to never read a book again?

There are a ridiculous number of potential responses to a simple book recommendation. And I didn’t want to cause undue stress on another human being.

However, I (wo)manned up and asked Linda the Librarian (hi, Linda!) for a few recommendations, and once I got the hang of it, I asked a few others.

I do this for you, dear reader.

eleanor oliphant
Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club (who knew she had a book club?).

And so, without further ramblings, I’ve taken Linda the Librarian’s suggestion to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

Eleanor Oliphant reminds me (and I’m not the only one) of Ove from Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove. She’s quirky and set in her ways, friendless and methodical. Her “mummy” is her only human connection, and she repeats her daily, office-worker routine ad nauseam. And, from all appearances, she completely accepts her life. In the first chapter or two, however, she discovers her true love, a very handsome, very popular musician. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll go over well.

Now, to share additional fruits of my labor, here’s a list of other librarian-approved book recommendations for your reading pleasure.

  1. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick – Looks interesting in a non-fictiony sort of way.
  2. Anything by Nora Roberts (how have I made it to 30 and never read one of her books?)
  3. As for romance, Kristan Higgins got a shout-out.
  4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – I made it through Flynn’s Gone Girl, but this is not my cuppa tea. Shudder.
  5. Trial of Apollos series by Rick Riordan – Mr. Riordan writes fun, middle-grade romps through all kinds of mythologies.
  6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – one of Mama’s favorite books by far, especially for anyone who remembers the ’80s fondly.
  7. The Stand by Stephen King – I’ve never braved Mr. King’s writings myself.

Now, here’s the list from my friend, Bekah, who is a legit librarian with a master’s degree in library science. Girlfriend knows books.

  1. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  2. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
  3. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  4. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuro Ishiguro
  6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  7. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg
  8. The 21 Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  9. The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley – “They’re adult-level books but about this little, quirky British girl who solves murders,” she said. I actually have read the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and I loved it because I listened to the audio book, which was appropriately accented.

I had one librarian give a fantastic list, so here are all of her recommendations:

Favorite book ever: Persuasion – Jane Austen.

Best high fantasy and story of friendship: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Best middle-grade fiction/fantasy: The Chronicles of Narnia.

There is no middle ground on Harry Potter: He is either loved or reviled; either way, you should read the series and decide for yourself. The structure and mythology alone are worthy your time.

Cookbooks: French Feasts, The Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Self-help/organization: Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver, Everything that Remains by The Minimalists, Zen to Done by Leo Babatua, Simple Matters by Erin Boyle, The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.

Home decor/homekeeping: Midwest Modern by Amy Butler and Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson.

Mysteries: Miss Marple and Father Brown; also The Man Who Was Thursday.

Miscellaneous: There’s a Slight Chance I Might be Going to Hell (Laurie Notaro – super funny), Just the Essentials (Adina Grigore {founder of S.W. Basics skincare line}), House of Plants by Caro Langston & Rose Ray, and The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin.

Also, no girl’s life is complete without a reading of Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

Aren’t librarians the best? They’re researchers who love books, so they know their subject matter.

Happy reading!

For more Mama, follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Published by Christine Boatwright

4 thoughts on “September: Quizzing Librarians for Book Recommendations

  1. Thank you for this. I too dread asking for a recommendation. I was just planning to try and find a display with librarian recommendations and go with that. But now I have legit challenge-approved, librarian-recommended books to use!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Did the summer reading prompt ask you to approach a librarian in person or could the interaction have taken place over a digital chat?

    One thing librarians and their libraries emphasize is accessibility, the more access points our guests have the better because we understand the diverse populations who want to be able to comfortably use the resources the library has to offer.

    On the lists provided “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” is a fantastic read, I remember that one from grade school. Lord of the Rings is always a good option and if you find you like Tolkien there is a much wider body of work to get into including the newest book “The fall of Gondolin.” My first King novel was “The Langoliers” I really enjoyed that one and his zombie novel “Cell.” The thing about King’s work, at least for me, is how very hit or miss he is. Either I love it or I can not stand how he writes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I approached librarians in person (as a stay-at-home mom, we tend to frequent the local library whenever I run out of ideas), as well as librarians I know through Facebook.

      You know? I started listening to “From the Mixed Up Files…” but got distracted. I’ve only heard fantastic things, so I need to try again.

      And, yes, we definitely love Tolkien in our house. We’re on the lengthy waiting list for “The Fall of Gondolin”.

      Liked by 1 person

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