Ah, February. The mid-month celebration of love sets one’s mind to matchmaking. Identifying common interests, histories, ideas about the perfect happy ending. Yes, librarians love a good set up. The perfect book for the right reader. It makes our little librarian hearts swell.
In libraries and bookstores, guiding the reader to the next book is called Readers’ Advisory. It’s part art, part passion, and part alchemy. All the elements have to come together to create that perfect pairing that will make a reader swoon with gratitude.
The first step in great matchmaking is discovering what the reader is looking for. Do you want to be challenged or to escape? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Are there genres you enjoy? Plot elements you can’t stand? (I have two friends who won’t read anything where something bad happens to an animal.) What have you read that you’ve loved? What did you like most? The setting? The characters? Was it a race-to-the-end page-turner or a slow, deep read?
Then we start looking at books that have those appeal characteristics. If you loved Gillian Flynn’s "Gone Girl" because of the wicked main character, we might recommend Chelsea Cain’s disturbing thriller "Heartsick." If you enjoyed being kept off balance and not knowing who to trust, you might like "Before I Go to Sleep" by S.J. Watson. Just love great suspense and great characters? Try Tana French. Start with "In the Woods."
Sometimes we’ll learn about your likes and dislikes by asking what you’ve been watching on TV or your Netflix queue. Can you hardly wait until the third "Hunger Games" movie comes out? Read Veronica Roth’s "Divergent" or "Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld. Were you awestruck and inspired by "Captain Phillips"? What about other unbelievable tales of survival like "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand or "Black Hawk Down" by Mark Bowden? (And, oh yeah, we give great music, movie and TV series recommendations, too!)
We don’t expect that the book we send you home with will be your one and only. In fact, we’d be sad if you set up house together and never came back. Ours is the best kind of matchmaking. We get to help you fall in love over and over again.
Karen Kleckner Keefe is executive director of the Hinsdale Public Library.