Jul 31

Books for fans of London or the Olympics; what’s the difference between a mystery, a thriller and a suspense novel? We recommend The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz

Gold Medal Reading

The 2012 London Olympics are in full swing, and here are our picks for some related books (some more related than others!):


Mysteries, Thrillers, Suspense – What’s the Difference? (8:53)

What’s the difference indeed? It used to be that buyers for large chains made decisions where a book would end up in the store. While that still happens, the internet and book discovery sites like Goodreads give books more chances to be discovered outside of a mystery section. To get a definition of these kinds of books, Ann did some Googling and found a 2008 blog post by former literary agent (and now author) Nathan Bransford, in which he says:

Thrillers have action
Suspense has danger, but not necessarily action
Mysteries have mysteries, i.e., something you don’t know until the end.

It seems like a pretty good description to us. Literary agency Bookends also wrote a post (that very same day!) in which they said, “While … mysteries tend to be about solving the crime, suspense/thrillers tend to be about stopping a killer or crime. In other words, often we know who the killer is, it’s not necessarily a whodunnit, but now we must find him or find a way to stop him.”

Ann recently received a new Scandinavian mystery called Midwinter Blood which is subtitled “A Thriller,” whereas Jo Nesbo’s books say “A Novel.” Will they reach different audiences because of the subtitle?

Finally, a recent Flavorwire post titled 11 Thrilling Books for People Who Don’t Read Thrillers, included Tana French’s latest Broken Harbor and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (23:04)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce     Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz

Though I haven’t read it yet, I couldn’t wait any longer to tell you about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s a book that has been loved by my colleagues, by reviewers, by some of you already, and by the Booker Prize committee who put it on this year’s long list. Harold Fry is a retired man whose life is completely changed by a letter he receives one morning, and the journey he undertakes to respond to that letter.

Ann had so much fun reading Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz. Despite the fact the there have been other biographies of Julia Child, and indeed, Julia has told some of this story herself, Bob Spitz has put together a comprehensive look at Julia’s entire life, and had access to her diaries and letters. Dearie will be published on August 7.

  • This podcast really hit home for me. As an author with a genre that is often undefined, it’s so hard to talk about my books to readers who desperately want to understand what I do in terms of genre and by comparing it to other books that they know. 

    Even stranger is watching others determine your genre for you. I’ll read a review that refers to my upcoming book as a thriller, then another that calls it literary fiction, then another that labels it humor and then another that talks about how it might be equally suited to a YA audience. I honestly never know what to expect when my books are mentioned somewhere. 
    Bookstores do the same. My mother-in-law once complained to a store owner when she found my first novel in the mystery section, but he explained that it was his customers who told him that it was a mystery.

    I wonder about how these less defined authors handle this inability to find a genre, and how you as booksellers handle the author that doesn’t seem to fit into any specific category. How do you pitch the genre-less? 

    The best I have come up with in terms of a label (coined by my agent) is “quirky fiction” but when I say this to someone, they look at me like I have two heads. As a result, I find myself envious of the thriller/suspense/mystery writer because at least they have a few genres from which to choose.    

    Thanks, guys! Great show as always!

    Matthew Dicks

  • Jgrames

    Mathletics sounds amazing! But there are two (similar) books by that title. Ann, do you know if one or the other in particular was recommended to you? (One came out in 2009, one came out this June, so maybe it’s the more recent one?)

    Great show, as always!

  • Director

    I’m a librarian in a small library (pop. 845) We just classify everything as Adult Fiction. When we recommend books we’ll point out the general characteristics of the book.  Of course here the budget needs to go heavily Suspense because that is what my readers prefer.

  • Carol Kubala

    Ann asked about my thoughts on integrating or serparation of genre in a library collection. This has been a library debate it seems since time began. Each library makes the decision based on many factors, one of which may just be personal preference of the person in charge. Many libraries have adopted a book store model so do try to separate genres. In our library we have decided to house an integrated collection with fiction being shelved alphabetically by author. Enough confusion is caused by separation of mass market paperbacks (the little ones) from the hardbound fiction. If an author is published in mass market first and then hardcover, his books get split up. We do add some genre lables to the spines such as mystery, sci-fi. We use mystery mostly for series that state such and such, a mystery. This is another source of debate, what gets labeled mystery and what doesn’t. Classic fiction is by dewey number, mostly in the 800’s, once again confusing patrons. We call that aisle the dead author aisle as most authors who are “classic” are deceased.

    This question comes up frequently on library lists such as fiction_l, in Readers’ Advisory sources and articles in professional journals.

    I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer. Whichever way you choose, you should try to stay consistent and find ways to help your readers find what they are looking for. If you integrate your collection and a person wants mysteries, your staff needs to know how to find them. Good cataloging, book lists, knowledgeable  staff will all help.

    I enjoyed this podcast topic and Matthew Dicks comments on where to shelve his books. You’ll find him easily in our library as he’s under F (for fiction) DICKS, then by Matthew, alphabetically by title. Unless of course, the book is new, which means it’s on the new book shelves 🙂

  • Carol Kubala

    Oh, and BTW, I hope some other librarians add their comments. I know you are out there.

  • Here in the UK our main chain bookstore is Waterstones and they’re pretty good with handling mystery/thriller/suspense. I think my local branch is fairly typical and they have them all shelved together in the same corner but there are some labelled shelves, display tables and feature stands for sections like ‘Scandinavian crime’ and ‘cosy mysteries’ (there’s a few but those are two I definitely remember seeing). I don’t tend to read many mystery, thriller or suspense books and one of the things that turned me off buying them was the fact that Scandinavian titles, typically more gritty and violent than I like, dominated the old crime section. Now that the section is broken up a bit and I can have a more specific browse, I do find myself occasionally looking up authors I used to read to see if they have newer books out or what’s been published in a particular sub-genre recently so I think it’s working well for them.

  • Judy

    I only began reading Terry Pratchett a few years ago when my school librarian recommended one of his titles. I was blown away. Terry Pratchett has since become one of my very favorite authors. I have recommended him to several friends and they quickly became fans as well. As a long time reader, I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t heard heard of him before. I think one of the problems is that Terry Pratchett’s books are shelved in the fantasy/science fiction section or in the young adult section. While his books are fantasy and often appeal to teenagers, his writing goes well beyond these categories. I now wonder how many other wonderful authors I have missed because the books are in the sections of a bookstore and/or library that I don’t usually browse. 

  • Carol Kubala

    Here’s a post that was inspired by the BOTNS discussion regarding Mystery, Thriller, Suspense. It was posted on the RA for All blog by Becky Spratford  How to distinguis thriller form mystery from suspense.

  • Kristen

    Ann — The French Chef episodes are available on Netflix starting with the very first one!

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