by Stacey Embry,
Director,
Morgan County Library
Book Tasting

This week, the Summer Reading Program teens did a “book tasting.” A book tasting is a way to introduce books you might have not selected for yourself. We had six different titles, representing three categories: realistic fiction, sci-fi/fantasy fiction, and non-fiction. I gave each teen a paper with six questions to help them to “taste, sample, get to know or rate” the book: Is the cover interesting or eye-catching? Description and first pages make me want to learn more about this book. I have read other books by this author. This book appears to be in a series. This book seems interesting and would possibly keep my attention. This is a book I want to check out and read.
This is an excellent way to promote items that might not be getting checked out, or even to just help someone find something new to read. What did I gain from it? Good discussions and a fun observance of human behavior. This was, hands down, my favorite event we have done this summer.
The first category reiterated the concept of mirrors that I have discussed before, and rightly so, they are young teens and egocentric thinking is totally age-appropriate for them. After “tasting” the books, they voted on their favorite book of the category. Our group was made up of four boys and three girls. “The Last Thing I Remembered” by Andrew Klavan beat out “The Light in Hidden Places” by Sharon Cameron, 4 to 3. You guessed it, Klavan’s main character is a male and Cameron’s is a female, that is a direct reflection of the group.
The majority of our readers read for entertainment, the non-fiction category drove this point home. This category had the most “No” comments, as in, “This is a book I want to check out and read,” nope. The winner in this category was “Very, Very, Very Dreadful” by Albert Marrin. Not sure why this book won out. The votes were more scattered in this category, but I have two guesses: it is a book about the Spanish Influenza (COVID similarities) and I mentioned that I loved it (unsolicited influence).
The last category was my favorite because it led to discussion of the importance, or not, of a good cover. I noticed they were interacting a certain way with the book, “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness. I picked it up to “taste” it, even though I have read it. The cover has a monster shadowed in black, there is no description and the first pages discuss that the book was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd (who is that?). Does it look interesting? Yes. At least for me, the artist in me would want to look further, but this is a special edition of the book inspired by the movie. I then “spoiled” the book for them, by sharing what it is about. I did this to illustrate that a cover can be misleading and sometimes a book hides itself so you are forced to discover it; a description or preview of this book could potentially ruin the whole story, you can only commit and read it.
I then went “old lady” on them and brought out books from when I was a kid; you know, the weird cover that was like cloth dipped in plastic, very seldom had an artwork on the cover, and had absolutely no preview of the content. How did we choose books then? I honestly asked myself that and then remembered touching each book, then opening and reading some of it to see it I wanted to commit.
We are such a visual world now, cover art might actually lose more readers than it gains. Maybe the inside flap, short description does a disservice to the beauty of the story. Today, the staff and I took it a step further by viewing some book trailers. Talk about a visual world, you can now “taste” a book by watching a short video.
I wish Mrs. Medicus would have been in that room with us, I would have loved to get her take on all the ways to find ways to find a good book. What would she think about digital resources, book trailers, crazy covers and the poorly constructed books of today?
Upcoming Events: 7/21 Summer Reading Program at 10 a.m. 7/22 OUR Story at 4 p.m. 7/30 MOCO Warriors Cancer Support Group at 6:30 p.m.
For more information, visit the Morgan County Library at 600 N. Hunter, call 573-378-5319 or see the library’s website at morgancountylibrary.org. Library hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.