In first grade, we had a reading competition where we got a scoop on our bulletin board ice cream cone for every book or chapter of a book we read. I won by a mile, and I’ve never stopped reading. That’s why I started working in libraries at age 14. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, I do not get paid to read all day—I wish! Still, most of my recreational time is spent with a book in my hand, and I’ve been known to sacrifice an entire night’s sleep to finish an especially good one. I average about 175 books per year. I like to remember what I’ve read, what I thought, and what I want to read in the future, so I use Goodreads.com to keep track of my books. I’d be lost without it.
Kristin Noell is the reference librarian at Samuels Public Library.
What is your favorite genre?
I read nearly everything, but I probably read more historical fiction than anything else. I also enjoy chick lit, mystery, romance, non-fiction (mostly history and travel), suspense, literary fiction, and paranormal fantasy. Basically the only genres I tend not to read are horror, western, and inspirational.
Who are your favorite authors?
How long do you have? There are many, many authors that I love and whose new books I eagerly anticipate! Alphabetically, they include (but are not limited to): Sarah Addison Allen, Bill Bryson, Emma Donoghue, Helen Fielding, Ken Follett, Kimberley Freeman, Tana French, Philippa Gregory, Kristin Harmel, Charlaine Harris, Tony Horwitz, Linda Howard, Sarah Jio, Catherine McKenzie, Michelle Moran, Jo Nesbø, Deanna Raybourn, Beatriz Williams… I’m sure there are more!
What are you reading now?
I’m probably already reading something different by now, but as I’m writing this, that would be The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley.
What have you read recently?
In the last month or so, I’ve read The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol, Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, Juliet by Anne Fortier, Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø, Betwixt and Between by Jessica Stilling, the Redhead series by Alice Clayton, The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd, The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins… and I think that’s enough!
What is your favorite classic?
Gone with the Wind, hands down – it’s probably my favorite book, period. I believe I’ve read it about a dozen times, the first of which was when I was 11. I can still remember lying on my bed in my childhood bedroom and reading the first few pages (a lengthy description of the Georgia countryside) and feeling like I was at the beginning of a big, important journey. Corny but true! I also love Peter Pan, East of Eden, Dracula, and Frankenstein.
What are your all-time favorite books/series?
So many! Here are a few books: Atonement by Ian McEwan, Bookends by Jane Green, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Every time I promise myself I’ll never start a new series, a great sounding one comes along. Here are several that I’ve greatly enjoyed over the years (or am currently enjoying): Dublin Murder Squad mysteries by Tana French, Fire and Ice mysteries by Michael Ridpath, Harry Hole mysteries by Jo Nesbø, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Mobile Library mysteries by Ian Sansom, Nayir Sharqi and Katya Hijazi mysteries by Zoë Ferraris, Nora Gavin mysteries by Erin Hart, the Redhead series by Alice Clayton, Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris, and Virginia Wine mysteries by Ellen Crosby. Again, I feel like I’m forgetting some. This must be what it feels like to give an acceptance speech at the Oscars!
What are your favorite recommendations?
Of course it’s always fun to recommend one’s favorite books to others, so see my favorite books and authors for many of my favorite recommendations. In my opinion, the two best books of 2013 (that weren’t by my usual favorites) were Life after Life by Kate Atkinson and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I think The Rosie Project has an especially broad appeal across genders and genres. One of the most powerful, beautiful, and sadly unfinished works I’ve read in my life is Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, who wrote about the occupation of Paris as it was happening and ultimately died in Auschwitz before her book was complete—for history and/or historical fiction lovers, it is a perfect read. And really, my favorite part of my job is helping readers find the right book for them. I love happy readers! I have the tools at my disposal to help you find your next favorite book, even if it’s something I would never read personally, so please ask me for help.
What is your favorite sub-genre?
Recently, I have been reading a lot of what I call parallel narratives. I’m not sure if they have an official name or not. Basically, they are novels with two storylines, usually one set in the past and one in the present. They’re often tied together by a family connection or secret, a geographic location, an object, or a theme. Some great authors that write in this sub-genre are Anne Fortier, Kimberley Freeman, Sarah Jio, Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, and Beatriz Williams. Standalone books I’d group with these include The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig, The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon, I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker, The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans, and The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes.
What are a few books that you are looking forward to reading?
One is Where Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke, a Scandinavian mystery that takes place in Trondheim, Norway and Richmond, Virginia! I’m also looking forward to the U.S. publication of Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough—I love her historical fiction. The new Diana Gabaldon, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, has had its publication pushed back several times, but is supposed to finally come out in June. And of course, many (or even most) of my favorite authors seem to have books coming out this year!
How do you choose new books to read?
Lots of ways! Of course I read industry reviews and prepublication notices to help me choose which books to buy for the library, so if anything piques my interest, I make a note of it. I also take recommendations from friends and favorite authors. If anything is making big news, like 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James or The Dinner by Herman Koch, I try to read it so that I am better able to talk to patrons about it.
What is your favorite poem?
A few favorites are “Ego Tripping” by Nikki Giovanni, “Her Kind” by Anne Sexton, “I carry your heart with me” by E.E. Cummings, “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou, “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and just about everything by Langston Hughes, such as “I Thought It Was Tangiers I Wanted.”
What is your favorite short story?
A few collections I love are Astray by Emma Donoghue, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and Close Range by Annie Proulx. I also enjoy Sherman Alexie’s stories. In school, I remember being fascinated with “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce.
What is your favorite play?
I mostly like musicals on the stage. I did enjoy my Shakespeare class in college. And I liked the movie Proof, based on the play by David Auburn.
What is your favorite magazine?
I don’t have much patience for magazines. I used to subscribe to Premiere, an incredible film magazine, before it was discontinued. Now I go to Entertainment Weekly for that kind of news. We have dozens of magazines at the library, and if something on the cover calls to me, I’ll check it out—whether it’s cooking, celebrity gossip, news, travel, or whatever!
How do you get your news?
Mostly by listening to people talk. Sometimes I’ll catch the evening news or check out CNN.com, but usually I let the news come to me.
Do you prefer books to e-books? Why?
A lot of people are surprised that e-books don’t outrage me as a librarian. I read books on my Nook and I read books in print. I would never willingly give up print books, but e-books do have their place—for instance, when I’m packing for a trip and can take 10 books in one small device, or when I’m reading a 1000 page Ken Follett novel that would otherwise give me hand cramps!
What type of plots do you enjoy?
Everything from the twisty and complex to the expositional and seemingly plotless!
Describe your favorite main character/character traits that you like to find while reading.
I like variety in characters. For example, one of my favorite characters is Jo Nesbø’s detective Harry Hole, and he’s an alcoholic cop who has problems with authority—one of the last people I’d want to know if real life, but an incredible character study. (Harry is one of the best written characters I’ve ever read. That Nesbø knows how to write!) It’s also fun every now and then to find a character that reminds me even the tiniest bit of myself—either a twenty something, a reader, a librarian, a Virginian, or something like that.
What is your favorite aspect of reading books?
I love the feeling of having lived thousands of lives in my relatively short one. I’ve “seen” places, “met” people, and “had” experiences that I would probably never have done otherwise.
If you could ask your favorite author a question, what would you ask?
Probably “What goes on in your head?” or something similar! I’m just constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of creative, brilliant stories that these special human minds are capable of producing.
Are you a great lover and reader of books like Kristin? Well then you should check out Goodreads.com! It is a great tool to help you keep track of books read, get ideas for new books, and getting opinions from people who have read the book before!