MLS NE RA Genre Study

The mission of the MLS NE RA Genre Study is to provide an Introduction to Genre Study, 101. Meeting  five times a year, we shall all read from one genre—and then discuss the appeal of that genre with each other emphasizing the building of a skill set of appeal categories and familiarity of genre particulars. We shall cover a different genre every meeting, allowing each of us to be introduced to the discipline of reading for appeal, as well as an initiation to broad and more specific genre categories. Everyone participating will be able to share analysis of titles and authors in unfamiliar genres that will stretch their capacity as Readers’ Advisors. Your Discussion Leader is Leane Ellis, Readers’ Advisory Librarian & Consultant (, formerly from the Lucius Beebe Library in Wakefield . To find out what we are currently studying, check out the calendar to the right–and use the drop-down menu to find the genre and the assignment.


Topic Schedule  for 2016-2018 (revised 7/20/17)

Genre Studies

See Leane and Shelley in Library Journal, November 1, 2008, “Keeping Up With Genres” :

Appeal Characteristics of Books

This is one example of what a RA “review” looks like—less plot, more appeal. Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye is an historical mystery that takes place in 1830 at West Point with Edgar Allen Poe as a major character. The author skillfully renders a West Point and a New York setting in a lyrical style that makes the reader feel they are witnessing first hand the details of the time. Gus Landor, a retired NYC detective is reluctantly pulled into an investigation of a cadet’s hanging and mutilated body. As the main narrator, Landor is compelling, intelligent and complex. Poe’s character comes fully alive with Bayard’s pen as Landor describes him and as Landor and the reader come to know him through his letters to Landor. One believes that this could be the poetic, dark and dreary Poe, we have come to expect in his poetry & short stories. Excellent narrative tension as the author uses the changes in narrator to methodically investigate the suspects, the motives, and the clues that twist and turn. Bayard does a fine job with plot, especially since there are twists to the story that with a lesser hand would be far more confusing. He sets his tale up with panache, yet systematically supplies what his detectives and his readers need to solve the crime–adding suspense, conflict, and emotions to slurry the mix. And I never saw the ending coming. APPEAL FACTORS: FRAME; CHARACTER; STORYLINE; PACING I would suggest this to a reader who wants a well-researched historical mystery who is intrigued with complex characters and storyline, and appreciates literary-style writing. A reader who can handle realistic detail; not for a die-hard cozy reader. Also someone who enjoys Historical true crime even though this is Fiction. RA Wordle: (click on image to enlarge) FANTASY FICTION ARC 2014-2015  Historical, Romantic, and Sagas.  PRIMARY APPEAL: We had nine people respond. All nine had world-building (frame) as an element (8 in the #1 position). Eight listed character as one of the three appeal factors; and seven had storyline. Several people mentioned pacing (the thrill factor0, and Atmosphere or Tone. Several of us had magical or mystical elements which I would designate in the World-Building category.

1.WORLD-BUILDING (FRAME) needs: “to transport the reader to another world despite being fantasy is nonetheless believable;” “logical/consistent magic or physics of the world;” “creating a believable, new world as a setting/character in the story;” and “’Impossible World’ Building…the safe presentation of problems and solutions beyond our ordinary worlds.”

2.CHARACTERS need: “Without good characters, the best setting in the world won’t involve and sustain the reader;”…”I don’t believe this is any different than any other story, but in Fantasy where the characters may not be human, reader empathy/understanding is more important to the experience than it might me reading a mystery or general fiction.”

3.STORYLINE:  Several of us want “the Quest” to drive the story and “to hang created world and good characters.” While “discovering and learning how to handle the unusual phenomena becomes part of the growth of the character,” but “the Quest” should “be more than the world and the cool stuff in it/happening to it; the protagonist (2) must have a larger reason for interacting with the world or a reason for changing themselves in their world.” In other words, I think the storyline has to real within the context of the world but also should stand by itself as a compelling plot line. Often magical and mythical beasts and their dilemmas are metaphorical and the story universal.

The pacing, tone, and literary quality of the writing may vary for individual readers.

Thank you to Jessica Atherton; Eileen Barrett; Michelle Deschene; Diane Giarusso; Louise Goldstein, Nanci Milone Hill; Jan Resnick;  and Jim Riordan.

HISTORICAL FICTION ARC 2013-2014 Literary, Sagas, Christian and Biographical “I learned that this genre provides an interesting lens to examine the hopes and fears of our past and present.” Jessica Atherton PRIMARY APPEAL 1 Setting/Frame : Genuine if not completely accurate; escape into another time and place; learning about a different occupation/role than one’s own; relevance 2 Character: Authentic characters carry the story even with good world-building especially if characters are based on a real person. Experiencing a life that one would never have; through multiple viewpoints we learn of others experiences and other cultures 3 Writing Style/Language: More descriptive and lyrical than other genres; story telling ability is key 4 Tone or Mood: Sense of stepping into the past—strength of novel’s frame and storyline makes it an immersive experience. Readers want to feel the pull not just the dry details. 5 Storyline: Include the story of that time in the background of the character’s story; Good story brings history alive Pace does not seem to be a great factor in determining choice for real Historical readers. Approachable way to learn about history; can peak interest in nonfiction subject areas Wide variety so determining what reader wants is paramount in this genre. Thank you to Jessica Atherton; Stefanie Aucoin; Eileen Barrett; Michelle Deschene; Diane Giarusso; Nanci Milone Hill; Jan Resnick; Rebecca Rowlands; Christine Sharbrough; Sandra Woodbury

ADRENALINE ARC: SUMMARY OF APPEAL (12/16): Lone Wolves, Spies & Psychological Suspense (1/16 to 5/16)

1.) PACE– page-turning pace is necessary for the success of any titles in this genre.
2.) TONE – Suspenseful, in some cases, menacing atmosphere
3.) STORY LINE is character-driven for the Lone Wolf; Both character-driven or plot-driven for the spy and character-driven for Psychological Suspense.
4.) PLACE or FRAME often plays a role and is a pivotal appeal for some reading spy fiction especially.

Thank you to Jan, Diane, and Michelle for contributing to this summary. Leane


The NE RART delved into three nonfiction historical subgenres—Defining Times, Microhistories, and Specific Settings. In addition, over the summer we read an historical fiction and an historical nonfiction pairing on the same subject/topic.

Here is the list of appeal that we found most important to readers Historical Nonfiction.

SETTING—must evoke time, place, social aspects; details should reflect the author’s research

STYLE–Narrative Flow—reads like fiction in that it has a storyline where the author’s use of language, setting, and focus all come together with an artful integration of salient details

SUBJECT—Reader’s interest drives choices

CHARACTER—closely related to setting.  Seeing history through one or more characters gives the narrative a hook that allows readers to relate. Anachronistic characters are not tolerated.

PACE—closely related to style. Some readers want a slower approach with obvious researched detail; others want more integrated novel with the story line for a faster pace.

Thank you to Diane Giarusso, Tatjana Saccio, Beth Safford, Jessica Atherton, Jerusha Maurer, and Eileen Barrett for their contributions.

Leane Ellis December 6, 2017