I usually have three books
that I’m reading…
One for fun…
One to learn…
One for work.
WWW.SHAKER.LIFE | WINTER 2019 19
The Notable Books Council sounds like a dream job for readers, but this is in
addition to your full-time job and is quite a challenging task. How many people
serve on the Council and how did you come to join it?
Serving on the Notable Books Council is indeed a dream job. I had been interested in
it for some time. It is a huge undertaking, and when I first realized how many books
I would read over the course of a year it was a little daunting.
There are 12 members on the Council from libraries across the country.
Ike Pulver, director at Saratoga Spring Public Library, who I know from his time at
Shaker Library, introduced me to the NBC chair a few years ago. After learning more
about what serving on the Council involved, I was lucky enough to be selected to
join the Council the following year. This is my second year as a member, and
I am serving as the vice-chair.
What’s the process? How does the council go about selecting books each year?
Selecting books each year is a collaborative process. We consider fiction, non-fiction,
and poetry titles for the general reader based on reviews in professional journals and
other authoritative sources. We consider each title individually, and have criteria we
use as a guide.
How many books are submitted? Do you read every book or do you get to
choose what you want to read?
The number of books submitted varies each year based on what is published, but is
in the hundreds. Most titles are submitted by Council members based on reviews,
but publishers and authors can also submit titles for consideration. Then we move
on to reading. In the first part of the process, we have a bit more autonomy in
selecting what we read as books are selected for consideration. As the field narrows,
everyone on the committee reads all of the titles. We spend a lot of time reading as
the deadline approaches.
Both character and plot are critical to a book’s success. What comes first for you
when choosing a Notable book?
That is a hard one to answer, and it really depends on the book for me. Some titles
are more character driven, and for those, character comes first. The same is true for
books driven more by plot. I love books that draw you in to the point you can’t put
them down and are challenged by the ideas.
How does the committee come to consensus on the books they choose?
The Council deliberations are secret, of course, but each member brings his or her
own perspective to the table. Some books really resonate with members and draw
out a passion that finds its way into our deliberations. The Council meets twice
a year at American Library Association meetings. It takes several full days
to come to a consensus. The different perspectives help ensure we end up
with a great list.
What do you enjoy reading in your
leisure time and what are your all-time
I usually have three books that I’m reading
when I’m not reading for Notables. One for
fun, usually a fast-paced fiction title. One to
learn, a nonfiction title on a subject or event
that I am interested in or don’t know much
about. One for work, a book to build my skills
as a manager or learn about developments in
libraries and information technology. I usually
make it through the fiction titles faster than
the other two.
There are so many great books, I have a
really hard time picking favorites. Growing up,
my favorite book was The Secret Garden.
I think I reread my copy so many times the
cover fell off. Now when I have to pick a
favorite, I go back to classics like The Brothers
Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Some of my
favorites from the Notable Books List for
2018 are American War by Omar El Akkad
and The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest
to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian
Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris. I’m reading
Chemisty by Weike Wang with my book club.
It is a rare break from my Notables list.
The 2019 Notable Books List, an annual
best-of list comprised of twenty-six titles
written for adult readers and published
in the US including fiction, nonfiction,
and poetry will be announced on
January 27, 2019 during the American
Library Association’s Midwinter
Meeting in Seattle. SL