‘With Malice’ by Eileen Cook appeared on my circulation desk with the pile of new books at the end of last term. It struck me as an interesting title and considering I work in a Years 7 and 8 library I questioned whether it was appropriate for the age group. After reading the blurb, and of course the Goodreads reviews (a fantastic social media tool!) I was intrigued. ‘With Malice’ tells the tale of an 18-year-old girl who wakes up in the hospital and unbeknownst to her, has been accused of her best friend’s murder. I found the book equally interesting because of the constant questions you were left with at the end of each chapter and the fact that it was clearly loosely based on the recent, very public, Amanda Knox case. There has been a recent rise in the popularity of true crime cases and mysteries with the huge successes of shows such as the Netflix Amanda Knox documentary, Sherlock and ‘Making a Murderer’, not to mention the popularity of novels such as ‘Gone Girl‘ and ‘Girl on the Train‘ both of which have, in the past couple of years, been made into movies. Last year millions of people, including myself, tuned in each week to the popular ‘Serial’ podcast to hear the next piece of evidence in a real life murder case, the popularity of which has seen a current retrial of the accused Adnan Syed.
Podcasts were also recently mentioned by Nick Earls, in a panel discussion at the ‘Future Libraries Conference’ in Brisbane this week, in reference to his newly released set of novellas. Nick stated that like podcasts which usually require a shorter time commitment, reading a novella (a movie length book as he describes it) could be something one can complete over a period of hours or say a 2 and a half hour flight from Brisbane to Melbourne. Nick advocating for a shorter book movement really interested me, especially when he made mention of the books that we start reading on a holiday and then leave half finished on our shelf when we return to our busy lives, something I have been known to do on the odd occasion!
Nick also talked about the popularity of audio books and having recently subscribed to Audible myself I can wholeheartedly agree with this. He stated that Audible is currently the biggest employer of actors in New York, a mind blowing statistic that really shows how in demand this book format has become. I find audio books fantastic when traveling, before going to sleep of a night, or like in an ill-fated, highly sun burnt experience last weekend, a great thing to listen to on the beach. So caught up in my story was I that I may have forgotten to reapply sunscreen and stayed out far longer than was necessary!
Another aspect also mentioned at the conference was the use of enhanced books, where the pages worked as QR codes, unlocking new information through downloadable apps such as Layar. It is important to note there was also a large amount of discussion around gender stereotyping in young adult and children’s books and the need to encourage students and parents to look beyond what might appear to be a girly theme or a boyish cover. To get young people looking at a story for what it is and not what they think they should be reading based on their gender or the appearance of the book. A quick scan around my Year 7 & 8 boys school library proves this to be very true, the books are mainly science fiction, fantasy or action based, there are very few general reads. Covers often depict men with weapons or explosions and the main character is more often than not a male with the exception of the ever popular Divergent and Hunger Games series’. This is disappointing and something I need to really think about in the future. The next challenge for me will be asking the library team how we get boys reading this perceived ‘girly’ material or is it something that needs to start at birth as stated during the conference? There is a lot of food for thought here and I came away from both the conference and finishing ‘With Malice’ with an inspiration to explore sites like Goodreads further to find similar titles, some for a potential mystery display and others that could perhaps begin bridging the gender gap that is evident in the library at present. Goodreads however is fantastic, I cannot recommend it enough!