Did you know that the Cecil County Public Library system carries 65,409 fiction titles, and of those, only about 2% can be browsed on the new book shelf? What is the fate of the remaining 98%? We’ve read and reread Patterson, Koontz, Picoult, and Cornwell. Goodness, if you only checked out books recommended by the media, you’d be pigeonholed into reading only vampire fiction. There has to be more!

It breaks a librarian’s heart to have to console the poor book that gets checked out 15 times while appearing on the new book shelf, only to fade into obscurity once moved back in the stacks. You wouldn’t believe the tales of woe coming from the fantastic book written by a one-time author. (Don’t forget, Harper Lee only wrote one book!) And what about the authors who used to capture our imaginations decades ago that we’ve forgotten? Let’s all have a moment of silence for Kenneth Roberts, the author who brought life to the War of 1812; Mary Stewart, the woman whose Merlin series entertained readers 40 years ago; witty Georgette Heyer, the pioneer of the regency romance novel.

And it’s not just the older books that have been lost in the shuffle. Try international authors like Penelope Lively, the novelist whose books are wildly popular in the United Kingdom, or Sweden’s Henning Mankell, author of the captivating Kurt Wallander crime novels. Perfectly fantastic books are hiding under ugly covers, like Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, a book on TIME magazine’s top 100 books published in the English language since 1923.

Sadly, some books are lonely simply because they are shelved on the very top or bottom shelf. Walter Mosley’s Bad Bad Brawly Brown, a mystery set during the turbulent civil rights era, hasn’t been checked out since 2006. Under the Skin, Michel Faber’s bizarre sci-fi horror novel requires a footstool to reach.

Here is where you, dear reader, must take on the challenge to discover something new – go where few people have gone before. YOU be the Oprah that brings an unknown book into the limelight.

What book did you “discover?”

11 Responses

  • Bryan Posted February 17th, 2010

    Good suggestions! What a thoughtful reminder to seek out the wealth of material that may have fallen through the cracks. I’ll make a point to check out a gem hiding in the “very top shelf” the next time I borrow.

  • lmm Posted February 18th, 2010

    I really enjoyed reading your blog posting. I am going to take your suggestion and read “Perfect Happiness” by Penelope Lively!

  • faj Posted February 18th, 2010

    I read Mary Stewart’s Merlin series years ago and loved it! It personalizes Merlin and explains his myths as if they really could have happened. It would be a great find for anyone who is into King Arthur stories. The first book is “The Crystal Cave”. Now that you mentioned it, I may want to go back and read them again.

  • LOB Posted February 19th, 2010

    Joyce Carol Oates has written so many books that some of them are bound to be lonely–I’ve been reading her for about 30 years and she’s wonderful! Don’t forget Ruth Rendell and Elizabeth George who have given us many, many quality mysteries. And if you haven’t yet read the Corrections by Johnathan Franzen and you enjoy a romp with a disfunctional family read this one. The author is famous for spurning Oprah’s attentions so that makes him lonely these days.

  • Kerry O Posted February 19th, 2010

    I just love browsing the shelves at the library… I found one of my new favorite books that way – The Ghost’s Child by Sonya Hartnett. It’s also a good way to find books that you may have read a long time ago but have forgotten about. Sometimes it’s like finding a long lost friend.

  • erica Posted February 19th, 2010

    Great blog post. I end up reading a lot of books that are recommended on the front page of your website. I appreciate that they are mostly older titles so I can check them out right away. The best book I discovered “lonely” in the stacks was William Boyd’s “Restless”. Fantastic fantastic spy story / historical fiction / thriller.

  • anonymous Posted February 20th, 2010

    It’s a CD, not a book, but I feel like I discovered the Wailin’ Jennys. They’re bluegrassy like the Dixie Chick’s Home album. It’s really good!

  • MEL Posted February 20th, 2010

    Well, my path toward a new author actually started at the new book shelf with Karen White’s “The Girl on LeGare Street”– a great read for folks who love mysteries, Southern lit, antiques, genealogy, and the paranormal, even. A few pages in, I realized this was the second in the series and went to the stacks to find the first book– “The House on Tradd Street” (just put it down and found it to be equally as engaging). While I was there, I discovered she’d written more similar-themed antiquing/historical novels outside this series. So many books to read, so little time!

  • Monica Posted February 20th, 2010

    When I find a book without any due date stamped on it I try to think of its first checkout as an “adoption” of sorts. My personal favorite that I’ve found in the Perryville Branch recently was “The Time it Takes to Fall” by Margaret Lazurs Dean.

  • Mitzi Fields Posted February 22nd, 2010

    Some of the best books I’ve read have been random discoveries, not best sellers. I have to admit, I put a lot of stock in the author’s photo, so I have read wonderful books that I wouldn’t normally choose, because the author looked like someone I would like to meet. I suggest you try a book of short stories by Alice Munro. They’re wonderful!

  • EBB Posted February 26th, 2010

    I recently remembered the James Herriot books I read way back when. Those were great books and I was trying to remember what I read as a teen to share with my kids. I do believe it’s time to revisit!