Ask A Librarian: What Should I Read?

Hello, darling readers! Welcome to Persephone’s new readers’ advisory column. I’m a state-certified librarian, an inveterate bookworm, and I learned reader’s advisory from arguably the most famous reader’s advisor of all, Nancy Pearl.

“The last five books I read and enjoyed were: The Book Thief, Gone Girl, Among Others, Crown of Embers, and The Book of Blood and Shadow. I liked the compelling stories, female protagonists, mystery/fantasy/magic/etc.”

First and most obviously (to me) is Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. While I generally steer clear of YA when doing readers’ advisory, I know you, and I know that this was one of my top ten books of 2012, and I think you’ll love it. While yes, it’s about a girl who could be the ever-boring Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Karou has blue hair and lives in a flat in Prague), the building tension and slowly-revealed backstory will keep you up until sunrise. There’s a mysterious angel, burning handprints, and plenty of theological references that you don’t need to get to love the story, but if you do, it makes it even more fun. If you like the darkness that lurks in Francesca Lia Block’s books but want a more streamlined and brutal story, I really suggest picking this up immediately.

Second, and this is a reach (but I think you’ll enjoy it) is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I wouldn’t call it science fiction, but I would say it’s speculative fiction. When music is heard from beyond our solar system, a crew of scientists and linguists is assembled to travel to the source. The story reflects on colonialism, love, the Catholic church, and the damage wrought by all of them. The story is compelling and heartbreaking, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a long time. If you liked The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll like this.

Finally, if you haven’t read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, drop everything and buy it. The story of girls serving Britain in World War II is spun out so carefully that when you finish it, you’ll immediately start it over again to see how it was done. If you thought you needed a good ugly-cry, I highly suggest this. It’s hard to explain the plot without giving it away, but trust me, this book is worth it.


“I would like to put in a request (when you’ve got time!) for zombie books, because I love them, preferably by women writers, not terrible, and not Mira Grant.”

Have you read The Keeper, by Sarah Langan? Set in a small Maine town, the former town beauty now restlessly prowls the streets as the dead slowly rise–both human and beast. This has a ton of glowing blurbs on Amazon from people like Peter Straub and Stephen King, as it is more horror than anything.

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is a genre mash-up that works well–in a steampunk turn of the century Washington, Seattle is a walled-off city full of zombies. When her teenage son disappears under the wall, Briar Wilkes must face her past to find her child. This was startlingly original and the first steampunk I read. I didn’t think zombies would fit a steampunk world, but Priest makes it happen.

If you haven’t read Zoe Archer, you should! Half Past Dead is two novellas, one by Zoe Archer and the other by Bianca D’Arc. Set as a prequel to Archer’s Blades of the Rose quartet, The Undying Heart follows Sam Reed, a veteran of the Crimean War, and a victim of his commander, as he returns to England and the girl who loved him as a child.


Are you looking for something to read? Leave a request in the comments! Just tell me about the last book you really enjoyed, and if there are any deal-makers or -breakers for you, and I’ll do my best to answer them next week.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

12 replies on “Ask A Librarian: What Should I Read?”

This is a great thing to do for a column!

I was just thinking earlier today that I’d really liked Cory Doctorow’s The Makers, which was given to me a Christmas or two ago (social commentary in sort of sciencey/nerdy way!) Fairly unrelated, but what I also tore through more recently was Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist. Is that enough to go on?

I also loved The Book Thief, and The Sparrow looks interesting based on the above recommendation.

The strong independent characters, the time period and her descriptions of nature, the interweaving storylines. Huh, I just realized that’s part of what I like in a lot of my books- multiple perspective narration that gives you many sides to a story, but without giving you the whole story.

Yea, book recommends! I am loving this new column!

I am looking for another Maeve Binchy. I LOVE her books; Tara Road is my all time favorite. To me, they seem simple (as in not a lot of action) and character driven with the location also playing a bit of a character. Any recommends?

Rather than the typical falling in love romance stories, I prefer the “long term” relationship stories and what happens to a couple when they’ve been married for a number of years, i.e. Tara Road and Claire and Jaime in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. That said, there doesn’t NEED to be romance.

Yea! Can’t wait for your next post!

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