I have a soft spot for alliteration, which is partly why I wanted to title this post “In praise of cozies and crossovers!” However, I realize that those terms might need translation for those of us not fluent in library-speak, so I will elaborate: by “cozies,” I mean a special breed of gentle detective story known as a “cozy mystery,” and by “crossover,” I mean books that cross genres, also known as genre blends. Books that appeal to both teens and adults are also known as crossovers, but I’ll stick with the genre definition for now. I bet you didn’t know you were going to library school today, did you? Congratulations, you just passed Readers’ Advisory 101!
Just kidding… readers’ advisory involves a much larger set of tools, some of which I have described before and more of which I will undoubtedly describe again. Since we are approaching the turn of the year, however, this is a good time to recall particular events as well as reflect on general trends, so let us take a moment to focus on a single sub-genre and then draw our lens outward to the wider field of less-classifiable fiction.
Although I must admit that I don’t read many cozies these days, one readers’ advisory maxim which I have always taken to heart is never apologize for your reading tastes. Now I read mostly action-packed fantasy and tricksy science fiction, but as a child I had a rather unhealthy obsession with cats (my mother still tells the story of me in a stroller, hissing at strangers). This of course made Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who… mysteries, with their classy gentleman protagonist Jim Qwilleran and his clever Siamese sneaks, especially appealing. I also dabbled in Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy mysteries as well as the Midnight Louie mysteries by Carole Nelson Douglas, both of which feature strong female main characters and more modern settings.
Even though I’ve moved beyond cat mysteries, there are many cozies out there which I imagine I would enjoy. The beauty of cozy mystery series - and they are always series - is that a reader can find almost any “frame” (setting, subject, historical period) that appeals. Do you fancy spending time with a fearless 1920’s Australian flapper? Check out the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood. Love gardening, coffeeshops, or bookstores? Check out Susan Wittig Albert, Cleo Coyle, and Ellery Adams, respectively. There is a cozy mystery for almost any hobby or profession you can imagine, and don’t get me started on food-related cozies, most of which include recipes: Diane Mott Davidson, Joanne Fluke, and Jenn McKinlay all write popular series. There are even several blogs dedicated to culinary cozies, such as Cinnamon and Sugar andCozy Mystery List. And we can’t forget the Cozy Mystery List, possibly the single most comprehensive site for cozies.
At the Library, we have a hard time keeping up with the demand for these series - some may have 30 titles or more, and cozy readers are a voracious lot! Since we can’t add every book in every series (which is eternally disappointing for librarians), we started the cozy mystery exchange on the 2nd floor. Here you can pick up donated cozies that we haven’t added to the collection, and drop off your own to share when you feel like spreading the cozy love! If you’re all filled up on cozies and you’d like to branch out, try identifying which specific elements of a book or series appeal to you - do you like the setting? The main character?
If your cozies include romance or magic, or they’re always set in the past, you might enjoy other books with those elements in the forefront. Or maybe you just want to try another cozy author and don’t know where to go next. The websites listed above and the database NoveList are great places to start. Either way, experimentation is free when you borrow from the Library!
At the other end of the genre spectrum lie books that are not so easily classified. As much as it pains a librarian not to be able to classify something, sometimes it is best not to apply labels which might deter potential readers. You might be intrigued by that slightly edgy-looking book about a mystical library which holds the power of all creation, even though you never read “horror” (The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins). Or maybe you don’t like science fiction, but just want a heartwarming story laced with humor and adventure (The long way to a small, angry planet by Becky Chambers). My new favorite book discovery tool is NPR’s Book Concierge. With clever categories like “Eye-opening reads” and “It’s all geek to me,” and elegant options to combine filters, this fun app covers recent books which might not be well covered by databases like NoveList. It can help you find exactly what you didn’t know you were looking for… and isn’t that what reading is all about?