What are some trends you’ve noticed throughout 2014?
I don’t know if I’d label it a trend, but I love being able to suggest the smartly written, witty books that have made a splash in the past year, including Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, to our community of readers. I feel an affinity with curmudgeonly protagonists for whom there is growth, like Ove and the characters in Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman.
What are you anticipating for 2015?
I’m wild for books overflowing with intelligence, insight and emotional truths. I want more like Anthony Doerr but with a more contemporary setting. I also love essayists. Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage was a standout. I’m bursting to finish an ARC of Abigail Thomas’ forthcoming What Comes Next and How to Like It.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would like to see more poetic and lyrical books like Edward Hirsch’s Gabriel garner more mainstream appeal. We’re living in a culture that is largely trying to live in 140 characters or less. It makes sense that poetry should have a broader appeal. It hit me when, in her review in the New York Times, Janet Maslin thanked Anthony Doerr for making his latest book “extremely readable…with very short chapters, many about a page and a half long”; and in an interview on the Powell’s Books blog, Doerr himself says, “It’s like I’m saying to the reader, ‘I know this is going to be more lyrical than maybe 70 percent of American readers want to see, but here’s a bunch of white space for you to recover from that lyricism.’ ”
What topic don’t you ever want to see or read again?
Circuses and incest, not necessarily in the same book, but separately…although if they were in the same book, I think that would be a nightmare! And I'm hoping there's not another walking book down the path (aside from Etta and Otto and Russell and James).
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
As a public librarian serving a highly intellectual community, it’s not uncommon to see a luminary from Princeton University spending time here. Paul Muldoon, Cornel West, Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize–winners, astrophysicists….I’m grateful and excited every day to share book suggestions with our unique demographic. We’ve got a particularly robust, intellectually stimulated adult population who audit classes at the university and are regular attendees of our monthly fiction book group. They are always up for being challenged in our discussions. The best thing is hearing someone begin the discussion with one point of view, and by the end, they’ve had a complete turnaround after engaging with one another. It’s a tremendously enriching experience.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Let me start by saying that I don’t know the names of all of our regular customers. Several weeks ago, I stumbled across a photo online, maybe on NPR or the New Yorker, of a poet who looked remarkably like one of our (fairly) regulars. It turned out to be Michael Dickman, whose work is breathtakingly creative and beautiful. A collection of his, Flies, was on our shelves, and I read it in one sitting. The next time I saw him, I acted like a star-struck fan and professed my love of his work. Good writing has the power to entrance, inspire and change lives by giving readers opportunities to recognize themselves in books and realize that the world is bigger than any one individual. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’d be lost without a good book.Kristin Friberg has spent the last 10 years as readers’ services librarian at the Princeton Public Library (New Jersey). In addition to writing for the library blog, she oversees 12 other writers, supervises the library’s Instagram team, oversees adult book groups, teaches technology classes and leads staff readers’ advisory training. In previous incarnations, she worked for Viking Press and Mercury Records and sang a little bit of opera (on the side).